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Motorists, beware of boot at Emory Village

by DAVID SIMPSON for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Drivers who frequent the area around Emory University, beware. That quick stop for a bagel or espresso on North Decatur Road can be a lot more expensive than you expect because of a crackdown on illegal parking in the Emory Village parking lot.

The shopping center, on the north side of North Decatur, deployed a car booting company last week to immobilize the cars of anyone who parked there and then walked across the street to businesses such as Starbucks or Panera Bread.

H.D. Booting Co. was doing a brisk business, collecting $75 -- cash only -- to remove the boots. Some drivers of the booted cars were unhappy, especially because construction on the always busy road has made it more difficult than usual to park in front of the businesses on the south side.

Joann Schulte cited the construction and the fact that she actually shopped in the CVS drugstore, part of Emory Village, after first crossing the street to Starbucks.

She was upset enough to call a property manager for the shopping center who told her that once she crossed the street she earned the boot.

That official, an employee of the Equinox Group who declined to give her name during a brief telephone interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said the booting is nothing new.

"We did it about six months ago. We do it for about six weeks, get the word out and then the students quit parking there," she said.

Asked about customers who do business in the shopping center as well as across the street, she said, "They go across the street and spend a few hours, meanwhile my tenants are the ones hurting."

The booting is legal, as a DeKalb police officer told one driver who was angry enough to call police to the parking lot. A sign at the entrance to the lot said parking is for "current Emory Village patrons only" and specifically prohibited parking for Starbucks and other businesses across the street. The sign also defined "current patron -- a person during the time they are actually conducting business, eating or drinking."

Parking on the other side of the street also is limited to patrons of those businesses, so the only recourse for shoppers who want to patronize both sides is to move their cars from one spot to the other.

Enforcement at Emory Village was strict last week, but at least one appeal was successful. A sobbing Emory student said she parked hastily to meet a professor at Starbucks and was back in just a minute when the professor wasn't there. She said she didn't have the money and promised never to park there again.

A booting company supervisor waived the fee and removed the boot from her car.