Southside business owners, parking enforcement at odds in council hearing

By Arielle Clay

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - There are two sides to every story and both sides were certainly being voiced at Wednesday's public hearing on booting cars in Five Points South.

People representing Southside merchants, as well as companies that immobilize vehicles and Birmingham Police all gave their perspectives.

"Some of the complaints I've seen are ridiculous it doesn't even make sense for people to be treated this way," Public Safety Committee Chairperson Johnathan Austin said at the public hearing Wednesday.

Austin and other city council members read through several complaints about booting in Five Points.  They also heard from merchants who feel the booting is driving away business.

"Merchants are losing customers. Customers are choosing to go elsewhere because when they decide to come down town they think where am I going to park and when am I going to be booted," James Little said.

But those who are booting say nothing they are doing is unfair.  The owner of parking enforcement systems spoke before the Public Safety Committee giving his take on the real problem.

"They have no parking lot for their customers.  They expect their customers to park on someone else's property free of charge and that's not how it works," the owner said.

The booting company says it's just doing its jobs and protecting the property of the companies that have hired them to keep non paying parkers off their lots.  Little, who is the executive director of the Five Points South Merchant's Group, disagrees.

"The real issue is not pertaining to parking lots and who is parking in whose lots the real issue is with signage. Knowing where to park where not to park which are being booted or not," Little said.

The Birmingham Police Department says signage is at the heart of the issue.  They've been working on changing the ordinance for the past five years and presented the new version at the meeting.

"Signage is not adequate of what the procedure is when they park on private property and that's something that definitely needs to be amended," Officer Harrington said.
The committee voted to revisit this issue on May 5th.

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