Towing

During the July Ocean City Motor Task Force meeting, police Chief Ross Buzzuro, right, said the police department and city legal counsel were working on a towing ordinance that could be used as a tool against motors during unsanctioned motor events.  

Emergency measures pass in time to be implemented for unsanctioned car event

(Sept. 11, 2020) To combat modified and foreign car enthusiast who tag along for sanctioned motor vehicle events, and pop up for unsanctioned ones, the Ocean City Council on Tuesday passed a set of emergency ordinances and a resolution to refurbish the city’s towing protocol. 

An unsanctioned car event, or pop-up rally, is scheduled for Sept. 22-26. 

“We had a complicated tow ordinance,” City Solicitor Heather Stansbury said. “… The first thing it [the ordinance] does is it consolidates all of the definitions.” 

Previously, different parts of the city code, which contains all the municipal laws and regulations, had different definition for terms associated with vehicle towing, she said.

“The next thing it does is it explains various types of tows,” Stansbury said. “There are various ways, and therefore various reasons and mechanisms, an individual may be towed.” 

One towing category added was the “police-directed” tow, as many towing incidents that technically fell under the “abandoned or disabled” category were actually police directed. 

“There are other times that they also need to direct a tow,” Stansbury said, including post-accident, parking violations, arrests and special events. 

The ordinance would also re-establish how towing fees are set.   

“Those fees historically have been set by ordinance, but, as it has come up a couple of times here in the last few months, when we have something by ordinance, changing it becomes a little bit more difficult,” Stansbury said. 

To solve the issue, the ordinance would make towing fees a resolution-based decision, which would expedite the process of altering tow charges.

Some of the major changes of the ordinance affect towing companies.  

The ordinance will require towing companies to obtain a license with the resort to work within city limits.  

The license fee is $110 and would include beneficial inspection services to attract tow companies to work with the city, Stansbury said. 

It would also require tow companies to tow the vehicles to an impound lot in Ocean City. 

The biggest change, which required its own ordinance, is that towing companies must enter a written contract with businesses in order to tow a vehicle off of that business’ property.

These changes came with penalties too — towing without a license could result in up to a $1,000 fine, while towing on a non-contracted property will be considered a misdemeanor and could result in up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of $1,000. 

As for changes related to vehicle owners, “Two noteworthy changes include that only a licensed tow company can tow a vehicle on and off an impound lot, which is operated by the Town of Ocean City,” Stansbury said. 

Registered vehicle owners who have followed the proper procedures and paid their dues may take their vehicle off the lot. 

However, “If your vehicle is not legal or is not operable and is allowed to come off the impound lot, it needs to be towed off the impound lot by a licensed tow operator,” Stansbury said. 

Maryland is strict when it comes to vehicle modifications, such as sound system decibel limitations, vehicle height requirements, light restrictions and window tinting restrictions. 

The council passed both ordinances on first reading six to zero, with Councilman Matt James absent, and voted to make it an emergency ordinance to bypass a second reading and to go into effect immediately.

The next item on the council’s agenda was a resolution establishing a new maximum tow charge, which would increase the towing fee from $325 to $600. All other fees remain the same.

Josh covers everything Ocean City government and crime. He graduated from the University of Richmond in 2019 with a B.A. in French and Journalism.

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