Provo council OKs long-awaited towing changes

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Provo Mayor John Curtis wants to put an end to predatory towing in the area. (Photo by Alisha Gallagher)

The Provo City Council voted unanimously to change towing laws Tuesday night. (Photo by Alisha Gallagher)

Starting Feb. 1, 2014 there will be some towing changes in Provo.

In a packed room on Tuesday night, the Provo Municipal Council voted unanimously to make some long-awaited changes to the city’s towing law — taking towing decisions out of the tow truck drivers’ hands unless the towing company and property owner have a contract that meets city requirements.

The new law has two tracks: one that would allow towing companies to boot and haul away vehicles, if the property owner has met certain requirements; the second would require a tow company to call a property owner’s designee before towing or booting if the owner hasn’t met the requirements — referred to as call-per-tow.

The requirements are:

  • a visitor loading and unloading zone, so visitors don’t end up with towed or booted cars for walking someone to an apartment
  • 24/7 access to temporary permits, so a resident doesn’t end up with a towed or booted car because they borrowed a car for a night
  • lower fees, which would cap a tow and 24-hour impound bill at $175 and a boot bill at $60
  • an appeal process to an independent third party, meaning someone who wouldn’t benefit financially from the tow or boot
  • improved signage, so there’s no question the area is a no-parking zone or by permit only

City staff will compile data on the effects of the towing changes and report back to the council in December next year.

In the last 12 months, there have been 3,585 cars towed in Provo for being parked illegally. Provo Mayor John Curtis and the municipal council members have heard from many of those towees. They complained that the parking lot conditions were confusing, so they didn’t know it was illegal to park; they needed to park there and there were no options for parking; the violation was petty, like a tire on a line; they thought they did everything they could to avoid illegal parking; and they didn’t think the fine met the crime.

“I’m excited that you’re looking for the opportunity to provide checks and balances to a predatory industry that unfortunately has exercised a lot of power over defenseless students,” said Provo resident Justin Hicken.

Not everyone was happy. Michael Lamont, owner of University Parking Enforcement, which has 80 percent of the towing market in Provo, asked the city not to support the proposal. He said he’d be willing to support a voluntary program, but not a mandatory program.

“This legislation is unreasonable and inappropriate,” he said. “It violates private property owners constitutional rights.”
Council attorney Brian Jones disagrees. He said call-per-tow laws around the country have been challenged for constitutionality, and all those challenges have failed. The part of the Provo law that hasn’t previously been upheld by a court is the second path provided in the law, but because it’s voluntary he doesn’t understand how that could be challenged.

Some business owners were concerned about how the law will affect them, because many of the provisions seem to apply to residential lots. Curtis said he’s willing to talk to business owners but didn’t think they should be excluded from the new law.

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Amie Rose has more than 14 years of experience writing and editing at newspapers in Utah and New Mexico. She graduated from BYU with a degree in journalism. She lives in Utah Valley with her husband, toddler and crazy dog.

2 Comments

  1. Gina Reply

    What I love about this is most apartment complexes do not provide adequate, if any, visitor parking. That is the next thing that needs to get fixed though. I live near a lot of student complexes and we only have street parking while those complexes have a lot of parking, covered for the most part, and the residents use the street parking. How do we fix that one?

  2. joe spalding Reply

    of course University Parking Enforcement is against this haha. They are the biggest crooks doing business in provo. They abuse their power and if anyone is threatening “constitutional rights” it is them not this law.

    They speak of the “constitutional rights” of the landlords but what they don’t understand is that when you rent or lease a property you forgo your right to possess the property…in essence a landlord cannot exercise “eminent domain” over its tenants. In other words if you tell your tenants they can park in your parking lot, or that a parking spot is included in the lease then your ability to regulate parking “i.e. towing” is very limited. Someone with a temporary car for the night, for example, legally has the right to their in “their” spot even if it is not their usual car. Parking enforcement is a civil means of preventing disorder and complaints but is not a constitutional right of the landlord.

    I saw University Parking Enforcement do all of the following:
    1. Booting for parking on the line even though the parking lot was empty and there were open stalls all over
    2. Booting a friend who was just walking a girl to her door late at night
    3. Towing a crippled man’s truck who parked momentarily in a handicap parking spot so his daughter could unload some items for her apartment, because the man forgot his handicap tag at home. (there were 8 other handicap spots open when this happened)
    4. Tows and boots for individuals parked less than 5mins “after hours”
    Its all about the money money money for them. They are horrible to work with, super rude, and greedy!

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