Area Towing may be called before commission

Area Towing, 706 Shirley St. Nashville, could be asked to appear before the Metro Transportation and Licensing commission at its September meeting for possible violations of the Metro Ordinance governing towing.

The commission has the power to levy a civil fine against Area Towing, or revoke their towing license, effectively putting them out of business. Area Towing services several parking lots and businesses in the Church Street area, commonly known as Nashville’s “gay district.”

The complaints came after an O&AN story on illegal towing, and the appearance of Brian McQuistion, executive director of the Metro Transportation and Licensing Commission, and Joey Brown, co-owner of Play Dance Club, on “Out & About Today,” a GLBT news and information TV show on News Channel 5+. McQuistion and Brown talked in-depth about the illegal towing problem.

McQuistion said complaints lodged against Area Towing include some from both citizens and the Metro Police Department.

“The complaints will be brought [to] the commission,” McQuistion said. “The owner of Area Towing will be summoned to appear as will those who have filed complaints.”

The commission, made up of seven members appointed by the Mayor, enforces the towing ordinance that was approved five years ago by Metro Government.

At press time, McQuistion said his office was still investigating recent complaints against Area Towing.

“We are still gathering evidence and getting details from citizens and the Metro Police,” he said.

Brown, in his interview on O&A Today, said he and Play Co-Owner Todd Roman had personally witnessed Area Towing illegally take cars from lots around Play, including one that belonged to the owner of a business across the street from Play.

Metro ordinance requires that the property owner or his designee must call for a tow truck, and sign a tow ticket on each vehicle towed. It also sets limits on how much a company can charge when a vehicle is towed ($65). If the vehicle is on a public street or public lot, a Metro police office must authorize the tow.

If the car owner catches the tow truck operator before it leaves, they must unhook the car from the tow truck for $35. Additionally, they must tow the car directly to an impound lot, and they are not allowed to store it at another location. Towing companies must also notify the Metro Police impound lot that they have towed a vehicle within one hour of the tow or the vehicle could be considered stolen.

“Companies can’t ‘cruise’ for cars,” McQuistion confirmed. “They must be called by owner of the property the vehicle is sitting on.”

In April 2003, O&AN reported that Action Towing was taken to court by the City of Berry Hill for violating parts of the ordinance involving cars parking around The Chute on Franklin Road. That case was eventually bound over to the Grand Jury. Tow truck operators can be charged by Metro Police for extortion and auto theft for illegally towing a vehicle.

The commission will meet on Tuesday, September 27, at 1:30 p.m. in a General Sessions Courtroom (501 Great Circle Road in MetroCenter). This meeting is open to the public. McQuistion urges anyone that has had towing problems or complaints to make his or her complaint in writing (an official complaint form is available for download here).

“We can’t act on a telephone call,” McQuistion said. “We have to have a written complaint before we can investigate.”

 Drivers are reminded to park in a legal area, not blocking traffic or obstructing vision of oncoming traffic, and in a sectioned, designated parking area.

“Don’t assume that because other cars are parked in a lot that it is okay to park there,” McQuistion said. “We don’t want people coming to Nashville to have a bad experience.”

McQuistion said if your car is towed, call the Metro Police impound lot. Once again, all towing has to be reported within one hour of the tow or the vehicle could be considered stolen.

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