Contributor opinion: A possible answer to towing complaints

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Four years ago, as a new mayor, I heard some consistent themes from students. I was constantly asked about our dining options downtown and told that the towing practices in Provo were out of control.

As you’re likely aware, our downtown has undergone an amazing transformation, and students no longer question the selection of choices to take dates. However, the issue of towing looms out there as still “out of control.”

During the last 18 months, towing has occupied more of my time than any other issue. You heard that correctly — it just might be that I’ve spent more time on towing than on every other issue combined.

I’ve learned quite a bit during that time from personal research, meetings with business and property owners and visiting with students. I now have a better idea of the frustrations so many of you shared with me four years ago and continue to raise today. While you have given me plenty of things to worry over, I’ve broken down the major concerns and placed them into four separate categories:

  1. Often no visitor accommodations have been considered.
  2. Signage is poor.
  3. There is little recourse for those who have been wrongly towed. (Lack of an appeals process.)
  4. Cost of the actual ticket. (I’ve heard as high at $450).

I’ve also learned that there is no quick fix. If students are hoping that towing and parking issues will forever go away, they need to prepare to be disappointed. I was extremely pleased last December that the Provo City Council passed an ordinance that will substantially change the towing environment. However, I have concerns that students will continue to be frustrated because of not fully understanding the intent of the legislation.

The newly passed ordinance does not allow parking anywhere we want, at any time we want, and in whatever form we want. It will not bail you out if you have parked where you are not authorized. These changes are not a license for students to disregard parking polices. Additionally, it will not make immediate changes. Provisions of the law allow as long as six months to fully take effect. Finally, it will not give you permission to be rude or abusive to tow truck operators or their equipment.

Instead let me tell you what it will do. In its simplest form it divides lots into two categories. The first category encompasses those properties where towing companies are not allowed to initiate the tow or boot of a car. This is our best attempt to stop what some call predatory towing or tow companies prowling, waiting for a violation and then removing the vehicle, no matter how illogical the tow. This is what we refer to as a call-per-tow. If the property owner or his or her agent would like a vehicle removed from the property, that person contacts a company and has it removed. This takes the decision away from the person who is directly profiting from the tow and puts into the hands of the one who can make a better, less-biased determination.

All properties fall into this first category unless they qualify for the second. This second option does allow tow companies to initiate the tow but only if certain conditions are approved. The property owners must agree to:

  1. Accommodate potential visitors.
  2. Lower fees that don’t exceed what the State has defined ($175).
  3. Signage approved by me.
  4. 24/7 access to a temporary permit.

I’ve heard too many stories from parents who have been towed on move-in days. Too many stories of confusing situations where signage isn’t very clear. And don’t get me started on the funeral home’s loaded hearse that was towed from a family’s parking space after the funeral director left it to help console a daughter whose father had just passed.

While I’m under no illusion that this ordinance will fix every problem, we’ve made a step in the right direction.

Let’s keep up the dialogue, and let me know how you feel it’s going. I can be reached on my blog, provomayor.com, or email at .

John Curtis is the current mayor of Provo 

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