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Towing ordinance is in the works

By Staff | Jul 7, 2010

By DREW WINCHESTER
dwinchester@breezenewspapers.com
The towing of a half dozen vehicles in downtown Cape Coral during Fourth of July festivities has a CRA official crying foul and a Cape Coral City Council member contemplating a new ordinance to regulate towing practices.
Seven cars were towed during the Red, White & Boom! celebration on Sunday, a move that has local leaders concerned that towing practices in the Cape’s downtown corridor, especially during large-scale events, is harming the city’s image.
CRA Public Relations Manager Helen Ramey said she’s concerned that families visiting Cape Coral, some for the first time, will never return because of the threat of being towed, or because their cars actually were towed.
“Special events brings families to downtown Cape Coral and it’s a shame that so many times people’s evenings are ruined because of predatory towing practices,” she said.
City officials, though, say businesses are within their rights to implement towing policies for private property and that the towing company, in this case, followed existing regulations.
City spokeswoman Connie Barron said towing companies are required, by law, to file reports with the police department within 30 minutes of towing a vehicle.
Barron confirmed that seven cars were towed on Sunday, five from the Mambo Restaurant’s parking lot, and two from the Fremar Building near The Dek Bar.
Barron said parking information was posted on the city’s website, its Facebook page, and its Twitter account prior to the event.
Ramey added that the Community Redevelopment Agency also sent out parking information.
That information urged festival goers to park in public lots and to avoid parking in private lots marked with towing signs.
Connie Barron said it’s within businesses’ legal right to impose towing restrictions, though the city does not want anybody to be towed, especially at large events like Red, White & Boom!
Barron added that the company contracted to tow cars in Mambo’s Restaurant lot, American Towing, complied with city police and installed proper signage prior to Sunday.
“It’s not city owned property, it’s privately owned property and they have contracts with these towing companies … no one wants to see cars towed, but it’s one of the unfortunate circumstances of these large gatherings,” Barron said.
The property owners could not be reached for comment Wednesday. A woman answering the phone for American Towing declined comment.
Councilmember Marty McClain, whose district includes the CRA, said he’s in the beginning stages of working on an ordinance to regulate towing practices.
He said he understands the rights of property owners, but visitors to the CRA, and all of Cape Coral, need to feel their vehicles are safe and secure while they enjoy events.
“Our mission, or goal, is to get people to visit throughout the city,” he said. “We’ve got to stop predatory towing.”