Last week, amid a full agenda, Asheville City Council passed an ordinance designed to combat predatory towing, and even beefed up a proposed fine for towers who snatch legally parked vehicles.
In a 6-0 vote (Mayor Terry Bellamy had been excused from the meeting before the agenda item), Council passed the ordinance drafted by City Attorney Bob Oast and modeled on one already in use in Raleigh.
“This is not going to end nonconsensual towing in this town,” Oast said. “But you are doing as much as you can.”
The ordinance, which will kick in after a two-month notification period, includes the following:
• Caps the fee for a completed tow at $100
• Requires a tow service to release the vehicle on the spot if it hasn’t completed the tow and the vehicle operator pays half the towing fee.
• Caps storage fees at $25 per day, and allowing for a 12 hour grace period before such fees kick in.
• Requires storage yards to be within 10 miles of Asheville’s Central Business District or Biltmore Village.
• Requires towing companies to allow free access for vehicle owners to retrieve personal items from a vehicle.
• Requires towers to accept credit and debit cards.
• Requires towers to notify police that a vehicle has been towed within 30 minutes of the vehicle’s removal.
• Requires towers to have a person on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, who can acknowledge requests to retrieve a vehicle within 15 minutes and release a vehicle within 45 minutes.
• Makes it illegal for anyone to interfere with any tow service that is carrying out a tow.
Council also made some changes of its own, raising the fine for towing a legally parked vehicle to $300 and doing away with a provision that makes it a violation for a vehicle operator to cancel payment of a towing fee made by credit or debit card.
“There’s a whole legal ground for whether you cancel a credit card [payment],” noted Council member Robin Cape.
For complete coverage of Council’s March 24 meeting, see the April 1 edition of Mountain Xpress.
— Brian Postelle, staff writer