Vehicle owners angry about snowstorm towing
January 05, 2011
TILTON — This winter's first snowstorm led to several towed cars in the Main Street area, and while the vehicles owners aren't happy about it, selectmen say they're sending a clear message that the town's parking ordinance is going to be enforced.
A parking ordinance has been in place since last year that requires residents who live on Main Street to purchase a parking placard and park in designated lots off of Main Street. Cars that did not have placards or were parked in the wrong lots were towed as the town's highway department cleared the lots after the storm.
"We have several angry people that have come through the doors of town hall all week," Board of Selectmen Chairman Pat Consentino said at the board's meeting Thursday.
Consentino said part of the problem is that landlords are not telling new tenants about the parking ordinance or are not specifying where they can park if they do get the permits.
After the initial discussion, one of those landlords spoke during public session. Louise Loncar said she was telling her tenants to get parking permits and park in the municipal lot, but the lots' signage has caused confusion.
"I can tell people (where to park) when they move in, but it would be a lot easier if you just post it," she said.
Consentino said there are signs in lot D, where the cars were towed from, that say municipal parking is allowed only from 5 a.m. to midnight.
"In the residential area, where tenants are supposed to be parking, it is posted, permit parking only," Consentino said.
"I went over there the other night; I didn't see anything that said you couldn't park there overnight," Loncar said. "We've been parking like that for years, and we've never had a problem."
One of Loncar's tenants, Travis Oak, also addressed the board. He said he's lived in Tilton for five months and has been parking in the same spot on School Street, which is across from Lot D, with no problems until the snowstorm. He said he was towed for emergency snow removal and that it cost him $100 to get his car back. He asked to be reimbursed because the lack of signage made it impossible for him to know that he was not supposed to park there from midnight to 5 a.m.
The board recessed to walk down to the area where Oak had been parking, with Loncar and Oak following. The board determined there was adequate signage, but Loncar and Oak disagreed.
"In my opinion, there are still no signs that define the different sides of the street as being the same lot," Oak said.
Regardless, Consentino said the board would not be reimbursing Oak for the towing fee. She pointed out that Oak did not have a parking permit at the time he was towed, though he has since purchased one.
"It was in the wrong place, and you did not have a parking permit," Consentino said, noting that the spots reserved for residents are in the back row on either side of the fire station.
"There need to be signs," Oak replied. "The lot I was in was not marked at all."
Loncar said she was disappointed that she had made an effort to come and speak to the board, only to be argued with.
Consentino said the board is always receptive to hearing from the public but was at a loss for how else to publicize the parking ordinance.
"When it comes to this parking ordinance, we spent hours talking about (it)," Consentino said.
She said news of the ordinance had been in the newspaper numerous times, and the board had held public hearings, talked to landlords, sent out notices, and given six months leeway when the ordinance first went into effect last year.
"I don't know how else we can do this," Consentino said. "The whole intent of this parking ordinance was to bring more continuity to plowing (and) to emergency vehicles, and to bring people downtown."
Selectman David Wadleigh pointed out that the police tried to reach vehicle owners before they were towed.