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Council to Consider Towing Law to Protect Drivers, Property Owners

January 21, 2013

Charlottesville City Council will consider a new towing ordinance Tuesday night intended to protect both private property owners and drivers, who either may or may not know they're parked illegally.

The ordinance proposal also features built-in protections against what some call "predatory towing."

"[It will provide] some consistency in how that whole aspect of private property tows are done," said Charlottesville Police Lt. Ronnie Roberts.

Councilors authorized the creation of a Towing Advisory Board last year, tasked to come up with a new ordinance to protect private property owners and also to help those drivers who park in private lots.

"[It's to make] some appropriate measures and a benefit of those who park in those parking lots so that they don't have to worry about their cars being removed so abruptly," Roberts said.

Roberts sits on the board, along with representatives from city staff, Charlottesville citizens, and owners of towing companies. The ordinance the board developed goes before council Tuesday, delayed one day because of the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

"There was a lot of research that was done and of course in collaboration with the wrecker companies that were there also," Roberts said of the process.

The ordinance directs private property owners to have clearly marked signs that tell drivers who can park in the lot, when, and what towing company is responsible for monitoring the lot.

"It also looks out for the consumer from the other side of it, too," Roberts said. "We're looking at it across the board to make it the same whether it's downtown or whether it's at the university for the private property tows."

The proposed ordinance sets maximum towing rates based on the size of the car and also requires property owners to sign off on a tow before a car is hitched to a tow truck.

The vote by city council Tuesday will just be one of two votes needed to make the proposal into law.

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