The Falls Church City Council has voted unanimously to require parking lot owners to wait 10 minutes before slapping booting devices on vehicles improperly parked in their lots.
The council's action, which beginning July 1 will make it harder for private lot owners to clamp down on those illegal parkers, was triggered by complaints about the P&P Restaurant on S. Washington Street, according to City Attorney David Lasso.
Lasso said he has received calls and letters during the last year and a half from irate citizens who said they had no sooner pulled into the P&P parking lot than a restaurant employe appeared on the scene with a vehicle immobilizing device to fasten to cars.
In order to drive away again, the owners said they were made to pay the restaurant $25 in cash.
Phyllis Hood, a manager at the restaurant, declined to comment on the matter.
"I personally fielded about a dozen complaints about P&P," Lasso said. "One man said he got out, walked up to read the no-parking sign, walked back to the car and the boot was on."
"Typically, the boot would be applied literally within seconds -- often right as the people were trying to comply with the no-parking sign," he added. "One woman complained she was on crutches."
Lasso said that often the unhappy victims were customers of a printing company next door, which has only a small number of parking spaces in the front.
Robert Welsh, president of Welsh Printing Corp., said he has posted six signs on the front door of his business warning his customers not to park next door and to move immediately if they have parked there.
"The ordinance that was passed was a good one," Welsh said. "I'm not against booting. This gives people time enough if they make a mistake to move their cars."
The Virginia General Assembly passed a law in 1983 that gave private owners of parking lots the right to boot vehicles that were trespassing on their property and charge up to $25 to remove the boot.
During the last state legislative session, a bill was passed allowing local jurisdictions in the state to regulate booting in their areas, Lasso said.
The new city ordinance stipulating the 10-minute grace period is the first attempt by the City of Falls Church to come up with a set of rules to prevent boot abuse.
The new ordinance also requires store owners who use boots to put up conspicuously placed warning signs, keep written records of booting incidents and post a $500 bond with the city.
Lasso said the bond money would be used to pay back individuals who were unjustly booted.
The ordinance also gives a person who has been booted the right to an informal hearing before the Falls Church city manager and prohibits the booting of cars with handicapped or disabled veteran decals or plates.
Lasso said that failure to comply with the new ordinance is a misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine and one year in jail.