Ordinance gets mixed feelings | SteamboatToday.com

Ordinance gets mixed feelings

Avi Salzman

— Business owners downtown have mixed feelings about a possible new city towing law that could require them to put new signs up in their parking areas but could spare their customers a lot of grief.

City Council passed a towing ordinance on first reading Tuesday night that asks businesses to make sure drivers know their parking spots are for private use before the owners call for tow trucks. The ordinance needs to go before the council one more time before it is established.

The ordinance would make the owners or overseers of parking areas place signs visible either from each parking space or at the entrances to the lot that state clearly who may use the spaces and which towing company will be taking their car away if they violate the parking rules. It also makes business owners contact the police to tell the authorities that they are towing the car. Towing operators would also need to be licensed with the city based on the ordinance.

The City Council decided not to make business owners try to contact or find the owner of the car before towing after hearing from business owners who felt the requirement was unreasonable.

While some business owners spoke out in favor of the ordinance because they said it would keep their customers from being towed unfairly, others felt the signage and police notice requirements would cost them too much time and money.

Downtown businesswoman Barbara Williams said the new rules would force her company to replace signs they have already been using that are too small to comply with the law a major expense for what amounts to a minor benefit to the city.

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Vic Greenlee, however, said he felt the practices of a few select businesses have made it difficult for everyone in the downtown area. Though the city may not need to pass an onerous ordinance that could severely hurt business people, it is time to do something, he said.

“If we have a sore thumb, we shouldn’t cut the whole hand off, but we have to deal with the sore thumb,” Greenlee said.

One resident said she thinks businesses need to do a better job of warning drivers before towing their cars.

Local attorney Valerie Perea said she recently parked downtown on a Sunday at a space marked “for customers only” but noted the business was closed for the day. She walked away from her car, thinking it was in a legal spot, but when she returned her car had disappeared.

“I don’t think we need to make the owners go out and grab someone (they are considering towing), but we do need to have better signs,” Perea said.

Perea’s problem is not new, said city staff, city police officers and downtown business owners. Visitors and residents come to the city or the police department every year claiming their cars have been stolen when in fact they have been towed, City Manager Paul Hughes said.