Arlington County is giving residents a chance to respond to proposed changes to the towing code ahead of a County Board vote.

People can share their thoughts in a short online survey before the issue is slated to go before the Board during its regular meeting on Saturday, Feb. 20.

The proposed changes are billed as getting the local code in line with the latest state law, protecting consumers and adjusting to rising costs in the towing industry, according to a staff presentation and additional materials.

Basic towing fee increases are being proposed, from $135 to $150, as well as an increase of the additional fees for night and/or weekend towing, from $25 to $30. That brings the maximum possible towing fee to $210, for a vehicle towed on a weekend night. The “drop fee” for discontinuing a tow in progress, however, will be lowered from $25 to $10.

The online survey has three questions. Among them:

  • “Do you support reconciling the County ordinance with state code for purposes of improving enforcement and making the ordinance easier to understand?”
  • “Do you support the consumer protection measures included in the proposal? These include enhancements to lighting, safety, accessibility and transparency.”
  • “Do you support towing fee increases given the provided financial justification?”

The survey gives the following justification for the fee increases:

In this provided justification, towing operators have indicated increased costs. Staff have included supported materials from towers and Consumer Price Index data has indicated an inflationary increase in our area. Given these economic factors and regulatory requirements that towers have to be within a 3.25 mile radius of Arlington to support private businesses, do you support raising the tow fees to the maximum fees as regulated by state?

These proposed changes come after the county determined, among other things, that some towing and pricing practices are unfair and predatory, signage about towing is inadequate, and people do not have many ways to fight back when their cars are improperly towed and stored, according to a staff report.

“The County Board has found that some members of the public and their property have been placed at risk in circumstances where their vehicles have been towed from private property without their consent and placed in storage,” the report said.

Included in the code would be an updated definition of “immobilization” to mean anything “that does not damage the vehicle,” including using barnacles.

The recommendations were made by county staff with the Trespass Towing Advisory Board.

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