Rexburg looks at predatory booting ordinance

REXBURG — City officials are taking another look at predatory booting in Rexburg.

The City Council is discussing an amendment to repeal and replace Ordinance 911, which governs towing and booting in the community. The amendment adds specific language that would prevent booting companies from restricting or towing cars without a specific, case-by-case request from an apartment owner, authorized agent or law enforcement officer.

Ordinance 911 allows booting companies hired by apartment complexes — or authorized to patrol parking lots — to restrict any vehicle, at any time, that is not properly marked with a parking permit.

“We want to change that,” Mayor Richard Woodland said. “Often, it’s when there is lots of spaces in parking lots … and they love it when parents come into town with their college kids; we have visitors coming to Rexburg every semester and they get nailed and it’s not right.”

Woodland admits the move will be controversial, but is necessary because of the amount of booting complaints the city and law enforcement regularly receive.

“It shouldn’t be our problem, but we have to do something,” Woodland said.

Darren Helm, the owner of All American Towing and Guardian in Rexburg, defended his businesses and said booting companies are not waiting outside apartment complexes to catch violators.

“We are doing a job that someone has asked us to do, (apartment) owners hire us to make sure everyone has a permit to be parked in their parking lot,” Helm said. “… The city says they are getting a lot of complaints, but they don’t call me about the complaints, they aren’t interested in making this work, they just want to change the rules.”

Rexburg tried to pass a similar ordinance in 2003, 2008 and 2011. Woodland said the amendment was defeated each time at the request of apartment complexes and booting companies “who promised to do better.”

The amendment gets its first reading before the City Council at 7 p.m. today at City Hall. The bill must go through three readings before it is passed into law. City officials may hold a public hearing on the amendment, but do not have one scheduled.

“I think we finally have a track record of these companies not being accommodating and purely predatory,” Woodland said. “I think this time it will pass. This time they will fail to prevail.”