Town warns motorists to be mindful of towing signs

Jun. 27, 2013 @ 05:24 PM

Officials are urging motorists to pay close attention to signs explaining parking rules in private lots because the town is unable to enforce its parking ordinance.
That means tow company operators may charge motorists any amount they want to retrieve cars towed from those lots.
The town began to enforce its towing ordinance Monday but the N.C. Supreme Court issued a temporary stay on a state Court of Appeals decision the next day which prohibits the town from enforcing the ordinance.
“Drivers are advised to monitor the posting of any signage and be mindful that the town currently does not have an ordinance in effect regulating the non-consensual towing of vehicles from private property,” the town said in a statement.
Officials also said the town will soon submit paperwork to the state Supreme Court in response to the temporary stay and a request by the George’s Towing for a discretionary review by the state Supreme Court of the lower court’s decision in the case. 
The town has been entangled in a legal quagmire over its towing ordinance every since George’s Towing and Recovery sued the town claiming the ordinance is an unconstitutional attempt to regulate trade.
The tow company also challenged the town’s cellphone ban, which the Town Council agreed to delay enacting until Oct. 1 in anticipation of a legal challenge by George’s Towing.  
Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson sided with George’s Towing, and the town sought redress with the state Court of Appeals, which overturned Hudson’s ruling on the parking ordinance, but decided to not to issue a ruling on the cellpone ban because no one had been charged with a violation when the towing company claimed the ban would do irreparable harm to its business.
The town had operated without a towing ordinance since Hudson issued his order last August.
In the ensuing months, tow truck operators charged offending motorists as much or as little as they liked to retrieve cars impounded from private lots in downtown.
The ordinance sets the maximum fee for towing a vehicle from a private lot at $125, establishes a $50 fee for vehicles released to an owner after being hooked to a tow truck but before it is towed, and a $20-a-day storage fee after the first 24 hours.
The amended ordinance also mandates that tow truck drivers accept credit cards as well as cash payments, that operators notify police when towing vehicles and restricts vehicles from being towed to lots farther than 15 miles outside of town limits.
Tom Stark, the attorney representing George’s Towing, said it can take anywhere between 60 to 150 days for the state Supreme Court to render its decision.