Citing an “ongoing issue,” Arlington County has ticketed Advanced Towing multiple times in recent weeks for blocking “the most famous fire hydrant in Arlington County.”
Trucks from the Ballston-based towing company have received multiple tickets, including one as recently as last week, for parking and blocking a fire hydrant near the corner of 5th Road N. and N. Quincy Street, a county official has confirmed to ARLnow. They were not able to provide the exact number of tickets, however.
That particular hydrant, dubbed “the most famous fire hydrant in Arlington County” by former local news reporter Dave Statter, is in the alleyway next to the company’s lot. A Twitter account is devoted to documenting illegal parking in front of the hydrant.
The county says that they have “received social media complaints and emails from an anonymous account holder” about the issue.
— Matthew Young (@matthewyoung31) October 29, 2022
On Saturday afternoon, the fire marshal was sent to talk with Advanced Towing about the “ongoing issue,” per scanner audio posted on social media by Statter.
— Dave Statter (@STATter911) October 29, 2022
The result of the ensuing conversation between the fire marshal and Advanced Towing appears to have rectified the problem for now. A spokesperson for Advanced Towing tells ARLnow via email that they’ve stopped parking in front of that hydrant.
However, the company also argued that the fire hydrant is inactive, on their property, and other cars are parking illegally in the alleyway but are not being ticketed.
“I feel the tow trucks are the only ones with attention, tickets and complaints when the entire area is constantly full of illegally parked vehicles because there’s is no parking,” the spokesperson said, while also providing photos of supposedly illegally parked cars. “No tickets have been issued.”
County spokesperson Ben Aiken did confirm that the specific hydrant is “redundant for fire purposes” with another hydrant only a few feet away, but did say it is operational and maintained “for other reasons as part of the water system.” There are also no plans to remove it.
The issue of Advanced Towing trucks parking in front of that particular hydrant apparently has been ongoing since at least 2017 per Twitter user Advanced Towing Fire Hydrant.
— Advanced Towing Fire Hydrant (@AdvTowHydrant) November 3, 2022
While the company says the hydrant is on their property, the county noted that doesn’t give Advanced Towing — or any property owner — the right to park in front of a hydrant.
“The hydrant is located within 5th Rd. North right-of-way and parking is restricted within 15 feet of a fire hydrant,” Aiken wrote in an email.
Advanced Towing also complained about the lack of parking in the area, leaving their trucks often struggling to find spots near their lot, where vehicles towed for trespassing on private property are stored (and scene of a famous incident involving a television personality).
The company cited the move from free street parking to metered spots as well as the presence of the county-owned Mosaic Park as two main reasons for why parking is hard to come by in that corridor.
“This causes huge congestion on 5th Road and surrounding areas, therefore cars are parked illegally all day long. We will also be reporting every illegally parked vehicle we see,” they said via email. “This morning alone, there were 6 at one time, and not one was ticketed.”
Aiken acknowledged there are “challenges to parking enforcement and curb space management throughout the County.” He noted that a number of county departments are looking into how to improve the situation in that particular alleyway.
Meanwhile, Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services has put up a new sign.
“DES has added a no-parking sign and [the Arlington County Police Department] will continue to enforce parking, when possible,” Aiken said.
This comes as Advanced Towing continues to be under some public scrutiny for its towing practices. A number of times over the years, the company has been at the center of confrontations between residents and tow truck drivers.
In August alone, the company was scrutinized for towing a vehicle belonging to a Dominion utility contractor, an Amazon delivery van, and a locksmith’s car.
A year ago, the company was in court to defend itself against accusations by then-Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring of unsafe towing practices and overstepping its authority. After deliberation, the company was ordered to pay a $750 fine with Advanced Towing owner John O’Neill saying he felt “vindicated.”
Another court hearing was held in May to figure out attorney fees and other costs. That didn’t turn out as well for the company. The Arlington County Circuit Court ruled that Advanced Towing owed the Commonwealth an additional $6,547.81 in attorney fees, costs, and expenses, attorney Chap Petersen tells ARLnow. That brought the grand total to more than $7,000.
The case also led local Del. Alfonso Lopez to sponsor a bill in the General Assembly that would have given residents and localities more ability to protect themselves against bad-acting towing companies. The bill ultimately failed.
Even with a new sign going up earlier this week, Advanced Towing noted in several emails to ARLnow — backed up with photographic evidence — that other cars were parking in the alleyway without receiving a ticket.
“A new sign up. Another vehicle left without a ticket,” they said. “I wonder why nothing else is getting attention or tickets?”
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