City to discuss tow ordinance

— The city is hoping to avoid sending visitors away from Steamboat Springs with sour tastes in their mouths because they had their cars towed while shopping downtown.

City staffers, after taking numerous complaints from visitors and residents about what some deem "predatory" towing practices by a few business owners in downtown, will present a "towing ordinance" to the Steamboat City Council tonight. The ordinance will have to be voted on twice before it is established.

The city was pushed to bring the ordinance forward by members of the Downtown Business Association.

Business owners have heard complaints from customers about their cars being towed, said Ty Lockhart of F.M. Light and Sons, who is a member of the business association.

"We're getting some bad P.R. for the town in the sense that people are parking in the private lots and not seeing the no parking signs and then being towed. Then after the car is towed they don't know what to do," Lockhart said.

The city also hears numerous complaints from visitors who think their cars have been stolen during the tourist seasons only to find out the car was towed, City Manager Paul Hughes said.

The ordinance focuses on getting businesses to place signs on their property that clearly indicate who can park in their spots and what the penalties are for parking illegally.

The parking area owner must make "reasonable efforts to locate the owner of the automobile" according to the ordinance language. It would include giving a written statement of those efforts to the towing company and notifying the police department if the ordinance passes.

The city notes the Public Utilities Commission, which regulates towing operators, does not have rules regarding signage.

The ordinance also looks to give the city more control over towing operators, asking the operators to get special licenses. The city is unsure of whether the licensing requirement is pre-empted by state laws.

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