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Sen. Ballard Files Towing & Booting Bill, Boone Manager Says It Would Be Win for Towing Companies

This is one of the many signs for the private lot called Marketplace, which borders King, Howard and Water streets. Photo by Jesse Wood

By Jesse Wood

Boone Town Manager John Ward said that towing companies and those receiving commission for towing and booting vehicles would be the “winners” of Senate Bill 417, which was filed in the N.C. Senate on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 417 is titled, “An act to authorize the use of immobilization devices on vehicles unlawfully parked in privately owned or leased parking lots or spaces.” Read the two-page bill at end of this article.

N.C. Sen. Deanna Ballard, who represents Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell & Watauga counties in District 45, and N.C. Sen. Danny Britt, Jr. of District 13, which features Columbus and Robeson counties, are the primary sponsors of the bill.

Late Thursday, Ballard said that she met with Boone Mayor Rennie Brantz and council members during Town Hall Day at the N.C. General Assembly in Raleigh. 

“This bill is simply an effort to create uniformity in regards to immobilization devices across the state as opposed to a mixed bag  of regulations across municipalities and counties. I look forward to working with towns and stakeholders in the days ahead. The bill has been filed and so  further language can still considered or  bill tweaked as we move forward,” Ballard wrote in an email.. 

Sen. Ballard

Ward’s comments came in a Thursday morning email warning the Boone Town Council of the bill. In the email, Ward noted that he would like to add this item to the list of issues to discuss with elected officials during Town Hall Day in Raleigh.

“The bill will make it unlawful for any jurisdiction in the state to pass an ordinance protecting citizens and visitors from unscrupulous business practices and from being taken advantage of. It contains no protections for response times, identification, or method of payment. This could have a huge impact on economic development and tourism,” Ward wrote.

“All of the protections that have been written into the local ordinance and that are a result of citizen/visitor experiences with local towing companies would be deleted. The winner would be the towing companies and the individuals that work for some of them on a commission-only basis. The loser would be the citizens/students/tourist and the local economy that are currently somewhat protected from the commission-only private enforcers by our local ordinance. Seldom do we get complaints from the non-commission only towing companies because they actually do have adequate response times, proper identification and take multiple methods of payment,” Ward continued.

The last item within the bill states: “Not withstanding any other provision of law, no local government may pass an ordinance regulating the immobilization of vehicles unlawfully parked in privately owned or leased parking spaces or lots.” 

For at least the past several years, the Boone Town Council has dealt with issues regarding booting and towing in downtown Boone. Council Woman Lynn Mason called the situation a “PR nightmare” during meetings about related revisions to the town ordinances. Her comments two weeks after an altercation between a parking attendant and a local citizen helping out a tourist.

In the summer of 2014, a parking attendant in a private lot was charged with misdemeanor assault after police officers witnessed the attendant shove the local attorney. The attorney was intervening in a dispute between the attendant and a mother with two kids whose car was booted.

While locals seem to know what private parking areas to avoid, visitors and those still unfamiliar with the area, like college students, seem to either be confused, not care or overlook the many signs labeling the entrances and parking spaces to private lots such as the Marketplace Lot, located in between Murphy’s Restaurant and Pub and Mellow Mushroom.

Making matters worse, lot attendants have been known to hide in their vehicles and wait for unsuspecting motorists to leave the parking area before booting or towing vehicles.

The bill passed its first reading in the Senate today and was referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate.  

See the entire bill below: