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Proposed Towing Changes Remove Portion of Photo Requirement

A towing standoff outside Ray's Hell BurgerA set of proposed changes to Arlington’s trespass towing ordinance would remove the requirement that tow truck drivers photograph the condition of a vehicle before towing it.

The Arlington County Board is set to consider an advertisement of the changes at its meeting this coming Saturday.

The proposal would not change the requirement that tow truck drivers obtain photographic or video evidence “clearly showing the location of the vehicle, substantiating the reason for its removal.” Instead, it removes a provision calling for any existing damage to the vehicle be documented.

Brian Stout, the county’s legislative liaison, says the change won’t have much practical impact, as photographing the condition of the vehicle was more of a best practice guideline than an enforceable law.

“Originally envisioned as a way to protect vehicle owners in the event of damage to their vehicle resulting from the tow, the County’s ordinance was amended in 2012 to require the tower to document the condition of the vehicle,” Stout told ARLnow.com. “Recognizing that the County has no role in damage claims, language was included stating that failure to meet this requirement does not result in a violation of the ordinance. This requirement has led to confusion among all parties regarding what is required to satisfy this provision and has led many vehicle owners to believe that the County has a role to play in such damage claims, which we do not.”

“While the County maintains that it is good practice for the towing and recovery operator to document the condition of the vehicle prior to its removal,” Stout added, “we believe removal of this provision will provide clarity to all parties while also not decreasing protections to vehicle owners.”

Other proposed towing changes include:

  • Requiring additional signs on the interior of a parking facility to supplement signs at the entrances and “identify additional parking restrictions should they exist.”
  • Adding an additional $25 fee for tows on weekends, holidays and between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. on weekdays, as required by a new state law.
  • Allowing the towing storage facility to be 3.25 miles away from the county line rather than the existing 3 mile requirement, thus allowing additional towing companies to compete for business in Arlington.
  • Clarifying that nothing in the ordinance “shall release tow truck drivers from liability for failure to use reasonable care while towing a vehicle.”
  • Clarifying existing language that prohibits the towing of federal, state or local public safety vehicles.

The changes were all discussed by the county’s Trespass Towing Advisory Board, the voting members of which are three towing company operators, three representatives from the Arlington County Police Department and one local resident, Nancy Iacomini, who chairs the board.

Iacomini tried to introduce amendments that would keep the requirement to photograph the condition of towed vehicles, but the amendments failed.

Separately, the county is hoping to obtain permission to allow it to add more local residents to the towing board.

The county’s draft set of legislative priorities for 2017, which is to be voted upon by the County Board next month, includes an item seeking a law that would “permit localities to add an equal number of voting members of the general public to their towing advisory board as there are representatives of local law-enforcement agencies and representatives of licensed towing and recovery operators.”

“The composition of voting members of local trespass towing advisory boards is a matter that is controlled by Virginia State Code Section 46.2-1233.2,” Stout said. “The County’s request would allow for localities that have a local ordinance and advisory board to allow for equal voting representation from the general public if they chose to do so. As these issues affect the general public in a substantial way, we believe that localities should have the ability to allow for equal representation.”

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