Property owners in the vicinity of Ladd-Peebles Stadium who collect money for overflow parking may receive leniency from a requirement to obtain a business license. The Mobile City Council is considering an exemption from the requirement, which came to light during bowl season this year when property owners who historically collected parking fees without licenses were suddenly approached by representatives of the revenue department and ordered to pay up or be ticketed.
After property owners complained to the City Council last month, Mayor Sandy Stimpson said the sudden check of compliance was compelled by a complaint and promised to refund any fees or fines that were paid. One of the property owners, Jerrlyn London, owns a vacant lot west of Ladd Stadium where for generations her family has sold overflow parking spaces to attendees of events there.
During the Senior Bowl this year, London was approached by two employees from the revenue department and a Mobile Police officer, who told her she needed a $138 single-event business license to collect money for parking. She reluctantly forked over the money, but later complained that the proceeds earned from the 30 parking spaces on her property are used to maintain the lot throughout the rest of the year.
City Council attorney Jim Rossler said March 18 that the city was considering adopting an ordinance similar to the city of Auburn, where property owners are exempted to allow for parking near Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“We figured that Auburn has a lot more experience in dealing with this issue than we do,” he said. “Their ordinance exempts owners within a one-mile radius from having to get business licenses on their property on game days. It also exempts those who don’t own the property, but have written permission from the property owners to park cars there. There is also an exemption for nonprofits that have 501c3 status, so a church can open its lot.”
But City Councilman John Williams asked why anyone should be exempted and said some form of licensing would require lot attendees to recognize certain responsibilities.
“I don’t think we ought to write anybody out of the law,” Willams said. “The reason we have business licenses is so people realize they have responsibilities. Sometimes people park cars and then abandon them, others are parking cars on other people’s property. A person making money ought to have business license. Should she be charged what [they] are being charged for every single event? Absolutely not, but an annual business license for a reasonable fee is not something that is unreasonable.”
Williams was concerned that allowing one exemption would “open a can of worms” for others.
Police Chief James Barber, who would be responsible for enforcing any ordinance, said there are always complaints about encroachment during events at Ladd, as well as events that require overflow parking downtown. He recommended any ordinance just provide some enforcement mechanism.
“We’ll need some kind of guidance about roping off or taping off the properties so they don’t encroach on their neighbors,” he said. “There has to be some control so we can respond fairly either way fairly.”
Prior to a meeting of its Finance Committee, the City Council made little mention March 18 of the mayor’s revised budget proposal, less than a week after City Councilman Fred Richardson vigorously defended the city’s current budget. The mayor will need five votes from the seven-member council to adopt the budget, which cuts about $13 million worth of unnecessary expenses and unfilled positions, while preserving job security and benefits for current full-time employees.
After it expired March 5, the council also renewed the Downtown Entertainment district for another 180-day period. City Council President Gina Gregory said the public would be invited to comment on the entertainment districts before they are considered for permanent status in September. It would expire Sept. 4.