Effective immediately, UR Parking & Transportation Services has temporarily halted booting vehicles pending research into a year-old Rochester city ordinance prohibiting the booting of vehicles parked on private property.
While some University administrators have been aware of a possible conflict with an ordinance since late 2006, the decision to suspend booting vehicles was not made until last night.
The ordinance, found in Chapter 108A-7 of the Rochester municipal code, states, “No person shall place a parking boot on, or otherwise immobilize, a vehicle owned by another person which is parked on private property.” It was passed by Rochester City Council in September 2006.
When asked Wednesday why the University was still applying boots despite the city ordinance against such activity, Director of Parking & Transportation Services Glen Sicard declined to comment. Further inquiry by the Campus Times led to the decision to halt booting pending further research. The decision was announced late Wednesday by Associate Vice President for University Facilities and Services Richard Pifer, who supervises Parking Services.
According to Pifer, “effective today, the Parking Department has been instructed to stop any booting activity pending the final outcome of our discussions with the city.”
Sicard was not immediately available for comment on the booting freeze.
Administrators acknowledge that there was some awareness of a potential legal conflict with the booting policy in late 2006 but the booting of vehicles continued.
“What is clear is that the University did not follow through [upon learning of the conflict] and work out an agreement with the city,” Director of UR Security Walter Mauldin said. “We need to work out the legal issues and get it right… Let’s face up to it and figure out how to do it the right way.”
While UR Security is not responsible for parking violations or booting vehicles, Mauldin spoke on behalf of Pifer and University Facilities and Services, the department which oversees UR Parking and Transportation Services.
Although booting is temporarily halted, all normal parking regulations and ticketing operations remain in effect. Prior to the freeze, boots were placed on cars found with four or more unpaid University tickets and to vehicles parked in Todd Lot during business hours.
While a boot presents a serious inconvenience and increased fine to a vehicle owner, Mauldin claims towing is a legitimate option although unlikely due to third-party involvement and having to take cars off campus.
“Booting addresses a pattern of behavior,” Mauldin said. “The car does not go anywhere but you need to do something about your fines before you can motor about the campus.”
While the City of Rochester Law Department indicated that the University is not exempt from the legislation as it is currently written, the ordinance was not directed at the University when it was implemented last September, according to Jeff Eichner, an attorney for the City of Rochester Law Department.
“This [ordinance] was aimed at commercial businesses in the downtown area and multiple residents that were putting boots on cars and trying to charge the person in order to take the boot off. That’s what City Council was aiming at, not the University or some other place that has a parking system in place,” Eichner said. “We’re going to be looking at the University and where they might fit in here and whether or not some change might be needed for the ordinance itself because they were not an intended target of this legislation.”
The city does not plan to pursue punitive action against the University for the possible violation of city code. “We’re not looking at any action at this point,” Eichner said.
Students seeking a refund for past boot removal fees would need to contact the University, a lawyer or the appropriate court; not the city law department, Eichner explained.
Calls placed to the UR Office of the General Counsel, UR’s chief attorney, were not returned.
While no firm date for the reinstatement of booting has been set, Mauldin speculates that it may take a change to the city ordinance for UR to resume booting.
Student reaction to the suspension of booting showed concern regarding the delay in action.
“While Parking needs to keep the roads clear, they need to abide by the law like anyone else,” senior John Ray said. “It’s ridiculous that they did not stop booting at the first sign of a possible legal issue.”
“When Parking demands students to comply with its regulations or face massive fines, they should show some responsibility as well and abide by the law themselves, especially if they knew about it beforehand,” senior Danielle Cote said. “This is pretty hypocritical.”
Bruml is a member of the class of 2008.