Resort Toughens Towing Ordinance For Problem Event

Resort Toughens Towing Ordinance For Problem Event
File photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY — Resort officials this week approved an overhaul of the town’s towing ordinance in advance of planned or expected motorized special events later this month.

During last week’s motorized special events zone task force meeting, town officials alluded to some upcoming enhancements in Ocean City’s towing ordinance. Those changes were formalized and approved during Tuesday’s Mayor and Council meeting in the form of two emergency ordinance amendments and a resolution setting the maximum tow fees.

Among the new initiatives for this year’s motorized special events, including the anticipated pop-up car rally in late September formally referred to as H2Oi and the fall cruising event in October, is enhancing and clarifying the town’s existing towing ordinance. In anticipation of the pop-up car rally, task force members said last week the enhanced towing ordinance will allow law enforcement to remove vehicles from the roadways for a wide variety of reasons and impound them.

Another significant change in the amended ordinances approved by the council on Tuesday is a provision outlining the reclamation procedures. For example, if a vehicle is towed and impounded, it will have to be towed back out at the expense of the registered owner, essentially doubling the price. City Solicitor Heather Stansbury explained the change in the ordinance on Tuesday.

“Only a tow company can remove a towed vehicle from the impound lot,” she said. “It would have to be towed out of the impound lot by a licensed tow operator.”

The changes to the towing policies came in the form of two ordinance amendments and a resolution each handled separately during Tuesday’s meeting. Each was passed as an emergency ordinance, allowing the various provisions to be implemented immediately. While the ordinance changes will apply all year in all circumstances involving towing, it was clear the changes were directly related to providing another tool for law enforcement during motorized special events, particularly the troublesome pop-up car rally expected the last weekend in September. Stansbury said the changes approved on Tuesday tighten up the towing policies and make it known in no uncertain terms just what the rules are.

“We had a very complicated towing ordinance,” she said. “What this does is consolidate all of the definitions and provisions in a singular ordinance. It clarifies why and where vehicles can be towed and what the tow operators must do.”

Stansbury said she and her office worked with the Ocean City Police Department and other town staff in crafting the ordinance changes. She said the changes only enhance to towing ordinance and do nothing to weaken it.

“We worked very closely with the police department command staff on this,” she said. “We haven’t lost anything with this consolidated ordinance, but we have gained a lot.”

The third piece of the puzzle was a resolution setting the maximum towing fees for a variety of circumstances. The most significant change, particularly as it applies to the motorized special events, is a substantial increase in the fee for towing a vehicle with “specialized equipment,” which was raised from $325 to $600. Stansbury said the combined fees for those types of tows could go higher, depending on the length of time and the challenges associated with those types of vehicles.

“It could be more than that with specialized equipment,” she said. “The police department has said it can be difficult to tow certain vehicles. It can also take a lot more time. Someone with a modified vehicle could be charged over $1,000.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.