Boot man cometh to midvalley parking lot
The midvalley has inherited plenty of good and bad qualities from Aspen over the last couple of decades. Now make it the good, the bad and the ugly.
The boot man cometh to Basalt and El Jebel.
Business owners in the Orchard Plaza complex connected to Movieland are angry that an Aspen-based development and property management firm is booting the cars of their customers in a parking lot that sits empty on weekdays.
Charlie Moss, a businessman from Aspen and New York City, changed his policy last month in the parking lot of a vacant building that used to be home to Mermaids restaurant and, years before, Wiegner’s. That building is on the downvalley side of Orchard Plaza.
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Moss posted two somewhat obscure signs last month stating that the parking lot was private property that could be used only as overflow parking for Movieland, the theater complex that he owns.
Three weeks ago he hired three young men to start booting cars ” locking metal contraptions on a front wheel to prevent the car from moving. Parking violators are charged $100 to remove the boot.
Not so neighborly
The owner of Capitol Deli, the business located closest to the vacant lot, said he understands that Moss wants the spaces for his movie customers at night. But during most weekdays, Movieland’s parking lot is nowhere near full so the overflow isn’t needed, according to deli owner Steve Lloyd.
He said there is inadequate parking in front of the Orchard Plaza building. His deli, a bank, a hair salon and the UPS Store share 14 spaces in front of the building. They credit Moss for allowing overflow parking in the Movieland lot during the day, but their customers’ natural inclination is to use the vacant Mermaids lot.
Moss developed Orchard Plaza in the early 1990s. He used to rent to the businesses, such as the deli, but eventually condominiumized the building and sold spaces. His parking crackdown came after the businesses no longer rented from him.
Lloyd said that some of his customers used the old Mermaids lot during the lunch rush, when spots in front of the restaurant were taken. Some people got booted even though they parked for just a couple of minutes while they retrieved carryout orders.
After some of his customers got booted, Lloyd thought he reached an agreement with a manager of Moss’ companies, Perry Mickles, to stop booting over the lunch period. He reasoned that the owners of Orchard Plaza businesses, including Moss, need to work together to attract and keep customers. But the boots kept right on walking.
“They don’t really care a whole lot,” Lloyd said.
He said a dozen vehicles were booted last Friday between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Mickles didn’t return repeated telephone calls from The Aspen Times. Moss has refused to talk to the paper for years because of what he felt was unfair coverage of his various development schemes.
A man who answered at the telephone number where people are directed to call when they are booted declined to give his name or comment. He said he and two friends were simply doing a job they were hired to do.
Town can’t intervene
Business owners and people who have been booted have complained to Basalt Town Hall. Town Manager Bill Efting said he investigated and determined the town cannot do anything.
“You hate to see it happen but I believe he’s in the letter of the law,” Efting said. “He legally can boot. It is private property. It’s very similar, I believe, to the lot next to Little Annie’s in Aspen.”
Orchard Plaza is part of the town of Basalt though many people consider it in the El Jebel neighborhood.
Anybody who passes by the old Mermaids building saw that Moss faced a problem. People were abandoning vehicles or parking vehicles there with “for sale” signs in the window.
The parking lot, like the building itself, took on a junky appearance as it sat empty over the years. Windows were broken out in the back of the building and replaced with plywood. The yard and trees haven’t been maintained. The building remains available for lease.
Lloyd has posted signs on his restaurant warning customers they will be booted if they use the old Mermaids lot. He lists the telephone number of Moss Entertainment in case people want to call to complain.
Elena McNulty, who owns Alana’s hair salon, said she was so embarrassed when one of her customers got booted that she paid the $100 fee herself. She tried unsuccessfully to get a refund from the boys booting the cars.
McNulty and Lloyd said they could accept the parking restrictions, albeit reluctantly, if Moss would place more signs warning people they cannot park there. “It’s important to give notice to people that they’re going to be booted,” she said.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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