Boone considers time limits for release of towed vehicles
by Anna Oakes
Speaking at Tuesday's meeting of the Boone Town Council, town attorney Sam Furgiuele said he had been asked to reorganize the town’s Code of Ordinances chapter on towing a couple of years ago.
Furgiuele said he proposed a new section in the chapter, 73.08, to address time limits for release of a vehicle after an incident that occurred following the Sept. 8 Appalachian State University football game. He emphasized, however, that the change “was not aimed at any one person” but that he felt “we had missed something in the ordinance.”
Under the proposed revisions, when a car is towed nonconsensually, a towing company must have someone on duty for the next six hours and respond to vehicle owner’s phone calls within a half-hour. If the person calls and states their intention to pay to retrieve their vehicle, the company must arrange for full payment within a half-hour, the revisions would also require.
If the vehicle was towed more than three miles away from town, the company must send someone to pick up the driver, according to the proposed changes.
On Sept. 8, the out-of-town resident contacted Mountaineer Towing & Recovery and learned that his vehicle had been towed to the company’s location in Vilas because it was illegitimately parked in a lot belonging to one of the company’s clients, Furgiuele said.
The vehicle owner was told he would have to wait until regular business hours on Monday to retrieve his vehicle, and he then contacted the Boone Police Department for assistance in getting the vehicle back, Boone Police Capt. Jim Wilson said.
The officers ordered the towing company to release the vehicle, but the department later learned from consulting with the town attorney that they lacked authority from the town’s ordinances to do so, Wilson said.
Tyler Davis McKeithan, owner of Mountaineer Towing & Recovery, said he was contacted by the vehicle owner at 10 p.m. and then received a call from Boone Police at 10:49 p.m. and was ordered to report to Wells Fargo in Boone.
He said one officer threatened to pursue a charge of larceny of a vehicle if McKeithan did not agree to release the vehicle.
McKeithan said he is not in favor of the proposed code amendment because it would potentially tie him and his employees up at the towing company’s lot in Vilas and prevent them from serving other clients. And if establishments in Boone can’t ensure parking for their customers, he said, business will suffer.
“In my opinion, I feel that this is simply a direct retaliation against me and my business,” he said.
Robert Fisher of Fisher’s Towing also spoke on the proposed code amendment. He said he is concerned about having to meet vehicle owners at late hours when they may be intoxicated.
“It’s not safe to be out there with some people at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning,” Fisher said. “I’m trying to look out for the welfare of my employees.”
The council amended its regular meeting agenda to consider the amendment when the meeting reconvenes on Thursday.
Also at the meeting, the Boone Town Council OK’d a rezoning of one parcel on University Hall Drive to U-1 University. The property, the former location of the Singing News, will be purchased by Appalachian State University and renovated to house its human resources department.
ASU had requested that three other parcels on the drive be rezoned to U-1, but council members denied those requests, expressing concerns about height limitations on those larger-sized parcels.
“U-1 was never intended to be anything but the main campus,” Planning & Inspections Director Bill Bailey said. “There’s several issues with using U-1 as the zoning district outside the main campus.”
The town’s Planning & Inspections Department and town attorney will draft new language creating a new U-2 zoning district for university properties located off of ASU’s main campus that will address such factors as height limitations.