(WBIR-Knoxville) The Rogero administration is asking the body that governs parking issues to reevaluate elements of the ordinance regulating booting on private parking lots.
Deputy to the Mayor Christi Branscom brought the administration's concerns about the practice to the city's Wrecker Commission meeting on Thursday.
"The city's concern is that some of the practices seemed a little predatory by the booting companies," said Branscom.
10News told viewers in July about Knox County Commissioner Ed Shouse's concerns that booting had become too aggressive in downtown Knoxville. Drivers reported getting boots moments after leaving their cars, as well as feeling deceived by the large signs advertising 'public parking' placed outside private lots. Shouse said he was concerned the practice was going to deter visitors.
The Wrecker Commission, which hasn't met since last March, agreed that members of the public and parking lot owners should be invited to the next meeting to talk about the issue. That meeting is tentatively scheduled for October 23 at 2 p.m. in the City County Building.
According to KPD Sgt. Tracy Hunter, they've received six complaints about booting this year and all but one were rooted in confusion, not violations. Hunter says disgruntled drivers were calling to report complaints about the $75 removal fee, and that they had been booted after as little as 10 minutes parked in a lot. However, Hunter says both of those instances fall within the property owner's rights, and aren't prohibited by the city's booting code.
According to the law, private parking owners can charge up to $75 to remove a boot from a car parked on their lot which either didn't pay, or overstayed their payment, so long as they post signs at each entrance notifying customers of the consequences and respond to requests for boot removal within one hour.
Branscom said this hasn't stopped confusion downtown.
"There was some confusion. A lot of people when they hear 'free parking downtown' they assume it's free parking in all the lots," but Branscom noted that only applies to city-owned lots.
She also told the commission the city has contacted lot owners to ask them to stop displaying signs advertising "public parking" at the entrances of their private lots.
There was a brief discussion Thursday of reworking the city's ordinance to include a 'grace period' for drivers who get caught parking without paying, or asking lot owners to use warning stickers for first offenses. Branscom says the administration is going to look at coming up with a proposal that includes changes they'd like to see.
According to city spokesperson Jesse Mayshark, changing the city law would likely start with a recommendation from the wrecker commission, followed by approval by city council.
City councilwoman Melissa Peters expressed hesitation, noting that there are limitations to what they can legally regulate.
The commission also heard from a representative of the Knoxville Towing Contractor Association about raising the amount tow trucks can charge to take a car to a city lot.
Michael McGovern told the commission tow truck operators haven't raised the amount in six years, despite the rising cost of fuel and labor.
The maximum amount they can charge is set by city ordinance. Fees vary from $40 to $350 depending on circumstances and type of vehicle.