Monday, July 15, 2024

With Carolina Beach towing issues on council’s back burner, one company still violating rules

Despite having previous discussions about illegal towing practices in Carolina Beach, at least one company is still advertising their direct violations of town code.

At several places in Carolina Beach signs just like this saying cars can be picked up from 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. are posted, even though they go against town code (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
At several locations in Carolina Beach signs similar to this are posted, stating that towed cars can be picked up from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., these signs indicate a violation of town code, which requires 24-hour availability. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

CAROLINA BEACH — The issue of predatory towing in Carolina Beach is something that has been brought to the attention of Town Council and town staff multiple times, and over the summer, council asked town staff to address some of the complaints against towing companies.

These complaints included allegations of towing practices that did not meet the standards the town has set in its own ordinances regulating these businesses — and it appears at least one towing company is still advertising services in direct violation of the law.

According to town code, “The applicant shall provide continuous 24-hour on-duty or on-call service at all times for the purpose of receiving and releasing vehicles. The person on call shall be capable of acknowledging requests to retrieve a towed vehicle within 15 minutes of receiving such request, and of releasing said vehicle within 45 minutes of receiving the request. The applicant must at his garage, or in its immediate vicinity, provide sufficient fenced storage space with security lights for storage of vehicles and indoor storage for motorcycles.”

But take a drive around the island and you will find signs for Rosak’s Towing and Recovery clearly listing times residents can pick up their impounded cars — from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

The town responds

For towing ordered by the town, be it police calling for recovery after an accident or illegal parking on town property, a master list is used to rotate through different companies. Mayor of Carolina Beach Joe Benson said the town has already removed Rosak’s from that list after receiving complaints about the company’s practices.

One of the other issues people have had regarding towing practices is the requirement for cash payment only. In Carolina Beach, town regulations require towing companies to accept cash, credit and debit cards for payment, but there have been complaints that some companies will force a cash payment.

Benson said that he has heard anecdotal incident reports of this happening, but was not aware of formal complaints made to the town — which is not to say they have not been reported.

Following Hurricane Florence and the departure of former Town Manager Michael Cramer, the issue of towing companies on the island has taken a back seat to more pressing and urgent issues, but Benson said he will be restarting the conversation with Town Council and staff.

One of the more difficult aspects to policing so-called predatory towing companies is that most of the time the towing company is hired to work on private property, meaning the town has little say in who is hired.

If an individual feels like their vehicle was towed illegally, the police have little to do with helping them recover their car. All actions for an instance like this would be a civil issue, which takes time and money, so filing a lawsuit might not always be the most feasible option — often times, paying the towing fee and recovering the vehicle is the easiest option.

Town Council will likely discuss towing and regulations at upcoming council meetings and staff has been working to refine and enforce town code.

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