Home / Featured / New towing ordinance reasoning expressed by NMB leaders, residents
North Myrtle Beach city leaders recently passed an ordinance intended to cut down on "predatory towing" inside city limits. Residents and visitors have expressed that some of the towing companies that operate in the city do not file the proper paperwork or contact the proper authorities during the process of towing vehicles. Part of the issue is also that many of the parking lots within the city that display "tow away zone" signs are badly faded. Photo by Ruben Lowman

New towing ordinance reasoning expressed by NMB leaders, residents

By Ruben Lowman

North Myrtle Beach officials recently passed an ordinance that was intended to prevent “predatory towing” of vehicles from parking lots within city limits. The ordinance was discussed at length by the city council during a workshop and two public hearings, council meetings, before being passed into law at the end of September.

The most noteworthy aspect of the ordinance is that the presence of a police officer is required for all tows inside North Myrtle Beach going forward. Councilwoman Nikki Fontana commented that the ordinance was in response to the proper paperwork not being fully completed and submitted to the city.

“It’s cutting down on nonconsensual tows, which some of those tows [HOA’s] were having you were already having pre-signed sheets that were not fresh ink given to the tow companies and that is what brought us here today,” Fontana said.

In response to the general idea that homeowners’ liberties were being restricted or infringed upon, Mayor Marilyn Hatley expressed that, “I think you will find that we are certainly not taking away your civil rights, you do have a right to call a towing company. But also, we need a record, we need an officer to make sure that the proper steps are taken, which they haven’t been in the past.”

Hatley explained that the simple rules that have been a part of the city’s towing ordinances in the past are not being adhered to, and it has become quite a problem for the city to track and record the actual number of tows that are taking place inside North Myrtle Beach.

“When you sign the papers, the towing companies have to sign the papers and that has to be given to the police department. Well, that is not what has been happening. Those things have not been happening,” Hatley said. “If you noticed in our first meeting, we had people who said they towed six and eight a day. And then we looked at our records, we only had 65 for the whole year. So something is not right and we’re trying to get our hands around that.”

During the first reading of the new towing ordinance, Hatley went further into detail as to why the measure was necessary at this time.

“Just about every towing company we have besides the one guy they were all in agreement with it. I think our staff worked very hard. We had a workshop with the towing companies and the police department sat down and talked with them and they were able to come to compromises and accept each other’s ideas. I think we’ve worked hard to come up with a towing ordinance that will work,” she said.

Mike O’Brien, a judge from Greenville who is a longtime visitor of North Myrtle Beach and had recently purchased a condo in the city before having his car towed this summer while parked in the parking lot of a restaurant that was closed temporarily because of the coronavirus pandemic. He said that he had to leave his two grandchildren in the car in the rain while he searched for a ride, an ATM, and then finally to pay the towing company to get his vehicle returned.

“I wouldn’t have minded so much if they towed it legally,” O’Brien said. “The problem was it wasn’t towed legally. The sign was one foot across and about a foot and a half tall. The second thing was it was so faded that you couldn’t read it until you got right up on it. I didn’t even know that I missed the sign. Number three, I had to pay $185 to get my car, in cash, at night.”

O’Brien said that his car was towed because it was called in by “somebody who was driving by” and not the property owner, and when he was showed a copy of the paperwork it was a “copied piece of paper that they probably had signed six months or a year ago, so it didn’t follow your ordinance.

Ultimately, the judge expressed the reasoning that tourists who experience this kind of situation while visiting may choose not to return, which will damage the tourism that this area depends on.

“This is bad business for North Myrtle Beach when they tow your car. Can you imagine if I didn’t want to come back here because of the fact that my car got towed and I had this terrible impression about North Myrtle Beach. That’s bad business for ya’ll, that’s terribly bad business for ya’ll,” O’Brien said. “With COVID-19 shutting all your business down, I would have spent the $185 somewhere else, but instead I had to give it to the towing company. That’s not good for business either. I’m not sure how many complaints you’ve had, but I imagine you’ve had quite a few. And at least from my perspective this is a great ordinance and it deserves to be passed.”

James Gause, owner of Gause’s Towing & Recovery, said that his company was fully in support of the ordinance and could only benefit from a law enforcement officer being present during the towing process.

“No tow company has the right to go and steal someone’s vehicle and not report it properly,” Gause said. “That is stealing, so when the police come it takes the pressure off of the towing company as far as damage to the property and all those issues.”

“I want to directly and publicly thank Director [Jay] Fernandez for talking with me at length after the workshop and again tonight,” said Joe Gosiewski, a member of the Barefoot Resort Residential Owners Association’s Joint Committee.

“I think we have a good understanding of the issues that apply to homeowners and HOAs,” Gosiewski continued. “Our situation is until Memorial Day we’re probably not going to have too many worries about this. And Memorial Day weekend and then probably June 26 until August 6 that’s when we will be using towing services for all of our facilities, the beachfront lots and the multi-family and everything else. So that gives you a lot of time to get everything right.”

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