Monday, May 02, 2011

Sanity from the City of Toledo: no authority to regulate private parking fees

It doesn't happen often, but when it does, we should definitely note it and appreciate it.

As part of the Toledo City Council discussion of the licensing of private business's parking lots because they will open and charge for parking during special events, council President Wilma Brown asked if the city could regulate the amount that these private companies charge.

In downtown Toledo, some local companies have parking for their employees and customers only. They have the temerity to open up those spaces during downtown special events and charge people to park there. It's profitable for them and gives the attending public more choices and options for parking. Seemed like a win-win, until the government got involved.

You see, the Toledo politicians, in their infinite wisdom, long ago created a licensing requirement for privately-owned public lots. In order to operate one, you have to get 'permission' - by way of a license - to do so. According to the city, this allows them to ensure that you've got proper pavement, adequate size and 'safety' (the ultimate arrogance of government). What it really ensures is that the city gets revenue from the requirement.

But these private companies who open up their private lots only for special events have never gotten a license. The vast majority of the time, their lots are reserved for their employees and customers - not the general public. So the city decided to require all those businesses to obtain a license or not allow public parking in their lots. Of course, protecting their lots from intrusion during special events would also cost money, so many of them paid the licensing fee.

Certainly a 'not-business-friendly' action.

But not content with the intrusion into the private sector, the woman who was elected by her fellow members of council to lead them as their president wanted to go even further and dictate how much all the lots could charge. She was 'outraged' that, as she claimed, some of those lots could charge as much as $20. Of course, if no one was willing to pay that much, they'd lower their rates, but apparently the concept of a free market and supply and demand are completely lost on Wilma Brown.

So she asked, by way of a referral to the administration, if council could regulate the fees so that council - not the property owners and the consumers - could set the amount for parking.

Thankfully, Adam Loukx, Law Director for the City of Toledo, imparted some sanity when he issued his legal opinion, included in last Friday's Council Packet:

It is my understanding that this referral seeks an opinion as to the limits of the City’s authority to regulate parking rates on private lots and does not seek an opinion as to the City’s authority over rates for public parking facilities (i.e. meters, public garages, etc).

Neither the Code nor the Charter specifically grants the City authority to set rates charged by private parking facilities. The Code does require licensing of these facilities1and there are many zoning and use regulations that are applicable to private lots.

Perusal of the Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati codes suggests that those cities likewise do not set rates for private lots.

In conclusion, under current law the City does not have the authority or duty to regulate parking rates on privately owned and operated parking lots. In contrast, under current law the City does have the authority and duty to regulate through the licensing found in T.M.C. Chapter 743 privately owned and operated parking lots.

Arguably, the City could, through appropriate legislation, regulate the fees charged by private lots in furtherance of the City’s general police powers. However, it is likely that such an action would lead to litigation.

Unfortunately, he does leave the door open for shenanigans from council, but does warn them that such actions would lead to litigation that, in light of his opinion, they'd seem destined to lose.

Kudos to the law department for telling council what they NEED - not what they WANT - to hear.


skeeter1107 said...

I find it stunning that someone would even ask a question like that.

If you follow that logic, essentially any good or service sold in the City of Toledo could be regulated by the City.

Gosh, you could almost hear the sound of the "stupid shovel" digging another anti-business hole.

Maggie Thurber said...

"...the "stupid shovel" digging another anti-business hole."

LOVE this!

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