Bud Kennedy

Yes, parking in the Stockyards can cost you $75. Here’s a warning

The yellow “parking notices” from a Colorado-based collection agency look somthing like tickets.
The yellow “parking notices” from a Colorado-based collection agency look somthing like tickets. bud@star-telegram.com

Yes, it can cost you $75 to park in the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Workers for a Colorado debt collection agency are issuing $75 notices if you don’t pay to park in some poorly marked private lots.

A Stockyards Station spokeswoman said landowners have stopped the agency from handing out the ticket-like notices. But two lots at the Livestock Exchange still charge $75 if you didn’t pay $10 at the meter.

“We saw what was happening, and we immediately put a stop to it,” said Dena Newell of Fort Worth Heritage Development, behind a $175 million redevelopment near Stockyards Station.

The two lots in the 100 block of East Exchange Avenue are owned by some of the same partners, but they’re managed separately by 29-year Stockyards-area parking manager George Westby.

“I just went along with the others,” Westby said Friday.

“The digital meters are great — people can use credit cards. But they have to remember to pay. That $75 is a shocker.”

Westby said he will improve the confusing signs. One says the west lot is reserved “8:00AM-6:00PM,” but uses smaller letters to note the $7-$10 fee nights and weekends.

He said that sign is a holdover from the past, and that modern parking signs would “junk up” the historic district.

Newell said, “We are working with him to improve that signage. It reads as if it’s free after 6 [p.m.], but it’s not.”

Last summer, reader Sue Allen of Fort Worth wrote about going to the Stockyards for lunch: “I was told it was free from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., then I got a $75 parking ticket.”

Built on the wide-open prairie, Fort Worth - with a population near 900,000 -- is now coming to grips with urban traffic and the loss of a former point of pride: plenty of free parking.

Last month, a new Star-Telegram editor went by the Stockyards for tourist brochures. A man in a golf cart, maybe a security guard, told her it was free to park Sundays. She came back to a $75 collection notice.

Last week, reader Alison Dolezal of Mansfield wrote how nine women in two cars parked at night without seeing the pay meter or signs. Result: two notices for a total of $150.

“It is a racket,” she wrote.

The collection agency, Aurora, Colorado-based Parking Revenue Recovery Services, calls the collection notices a “parking penalty fee.” They give an email address, fax number and post office box to dispute the charge.

The agency’s website lists clients such as airports and entertainment venues.

But the equipment is outdated. It isn’t even set up for patrons to pay by smartphone.

We want a positive experience.

Dena Newell, Fort Worth Heritage Development, which has suspended use of $75 parking violation notices.

You have to wait in line and pay the meter, then come back and put the receipt in your windshield.

By then, you might have a $75 notice.

For that matter, $75 is too much to charge for a $10 parking violation. Out on the street, a Fort Worth city parking ticket costs $35.

“I don’t really like that,” Westby said. He used to charge non-payers $15 before Heritage Development partners installed the meters, he said.

“I’ve put 30 years of my life into building up this place. I don’t want to tear it down upsetting people.”

Newell said the high fee is a concern for Heritage.

“We are not issuing notices right now,” she said.

“We want a positive experience.”

A message to Parking Revenue Recovery Services was not returned.

State law regulates towing from private parking lots, but not debt collection.

On its website at parkingprrs.com, the agency says its goal is “(1) increasing overall customer compliance … and (2) maximizing their collections revenue.”

City Councilman Carlos Flores, who represents the Stockyards, said by email that he has not received any complaints about the collections. (State law requires proper signage and notice before a landowner can have cars towed, but not to levy charges or collect debts.)

A commenter last year on the social media site reddit.com posted a similar notice from a lot in the West Seventh Street area.

Private parking charges, particularly in the Stockyards, are a longtime sticking point with both business owners and patrons. Shops and restaurants want more free parking for daytime guests, but most popular entertainment districts typically charge for parking at night.

(Fort Worth partly uses tax money to underwrite free night and weekend parking downtown.)

Newell said Heritage Development wants “to make sure every visit to the Stockyards is a memorable one.”

This is not the way Fort Worth wants to be remembered.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, @BudKennedy.

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