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When Mark and Tracie Moxley left Grape & Grain Wednesday night after meeting friends there, they discovered one of their vehicles was gone.

“We assumed it was stolen, which was kind of funny since it’s an 11-year old minivan,” Tracie said. 

After checking with police, the couple learned the van had been towed from the parking lot behind Grape & Grain. 

A sign in the northwest 
corner of the parking lot 
owned by Eldridge & Eldridge
Dental Group warns motorists
that unauthorized vehicles 
will be towed.
(Photo by 
Eric Crump/The Chronicle)

The lot extends east from behind Grape & Grain’s buildings, and the Moxleys assumed it belonged to the craft beer and wine establishment, but it is owned by nearby Eldridge & Eldridge Dental Group, which renovated the former Tom’s Family Restaurant at 1944 Ridge Road last year and opened in November.

The Moxleys weren’t alone. The towing company told them it removed three or four vehicles that night. 

It was the latest incident in an ongoing conflict over parking in that area of downtown Homewood.

Ron Khalaf, owner of Grape & Grain, said he has also had trouble getting permission to have trucks use the lot to unload product for his business. He said his only alternative is to have trucks park on Dixie Highway, which could cause traffic snarls on the busy street.

The owner of Grape & Grain 
has posted a sign asking 
customers not to use the 
lot behind the establishment.

(Photo by Eric Crump/The 

Khalaf has posted a sign on the store’s front door asking customers not to use the back lot.

Dr. Ron Eldridge said Tuesday the issue is one of liability. His business owns and is responsible for the lot.

The village ordinance governing parking on private property, section 106-267 of the municipal code, states: “It shall be unlawful to park any motor vehicle on any private property without the consent of the owner of the property.”

Eldridge & Eldridge’s lot has two warning signs posted, one at the northwest corner of the lot and one at the east end, noting that unauthorized vehicles will be towed at the owner’s expense. However, the signs do not indicate which business the lot belongs to.

Also complicating public perception about permission to park in the lot is a statement attributed to Eldridge during a village board meeting in 2013, when he was applying for $80,000 in tax increment financing incentives to help renovate the former restaurant building.

The Patch reported during the Sept. 10, 2013, meeting that Village President Richard Hofeld asked Eldridge whether people could park cars in the lot when the dental office was closed. Eldridge reportedly said yes.

That arrangement apparently was never formalized.

“There was no agreement,” Eldridge said, and Village Attorney Chris Cummings confirmed that no parking arrangement was included in the formal TIF funding agreement between Eldridge & Eldridge and the village.

Formalities notwithstanding, at least one Homewood trustee wishes Eldridge would ease up on towing vehicles from the lot. 

At the board meeting Tuesday, Trustee Ray Robertson mentioned the recent towing and asked whether the village had any recourse. 

“I don’t think they are being good neighbors,” he said. “We gave them a substantial amount of money.”

He noted that parking is at a premium in the downtown area, and at a time when the village is working hard to attract visitors, he worried that some might feel unwelcome if they happen to park in the wrong place. 

Hofeld said Saturday that the situation is a civil matter, but at the board meeting he said village officials plan to host a meeting between Eldridge and Khalaf next week.

“Hopefully, we can come up with some resolution,” he said.

Contact Eric Crump at [email protected]

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