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Chapel Hill to appeal judge's halt of towing, cellphone ordinances

Posted August 22, 2012

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— Chapel Hill town leaders met Wednesday to discuss their plans to appeal a judge's ruling that struck down town ordinances banning the use of cellphones while driving and regulating towing companies.

Earlier this month, Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson issued permanent injunctions on both ordinances, ruling that state laws governing the use of cellphones in cars supersede the town's ordinance and that the town's towing rules violate the state constitution.

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said Wednesday that not having towing rules in the town is "absurd."

George King, a local towing company operator, sued the town when it adopted an ordinance in February that requires tow zones to be properly marked, sets fees towing companies can charge, requires them to accept credit or debit card payment, mandates that they inform police before towing any vehicle and prohibits impound lots from being located more than 15 miles from town.

"The legislature cannot regulate trade or business by a local law," said King's attorney, Thomas Stark.

Chapel Hill to appeal judge's halt of cellphone, towing ordinances Chapel Hill to appeal judge's halt of towing, cellphone ordinances

The ordinance was passed in response to concerns about predatory towing practices in the town. Kleinschmidt said he hears many complaints about unreasonable prices for towing, among other things.

Stark, however, said prices – which range from about $100 to $300 – are fair. Still, since the ordinance passed, King set a standard fee of $180 for towing. 

A month after passing the towing rules, town leaders voted to ban the use of cellphones, including hands-free devices, for all drivers. The ban was set to take effect June 1, but Hudson issued a temporary restraining order in May to block enforcement of it.

His recent ruling made that order permanent. 

Kleinschmidt said the case could prevent other cities and towns in North Carolina from implementing towing rules.

"This order has broad-reaching effects, way beyond the borders of Chapel Hill," he said.

In a closed-door meeting Wednesday night, town leaders reached consensus on appealing the towing ruling and voted 6-3 to appeal Hudson's decision on the cellphone ban.

16 Comments

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  • independent_thinker Aug 23, 2012

    "The marxists, communists, liberals, and socialists in Chapel Hill won't be happy until they regulate all parts of our life."

    Says the guy who probably voted Yes to Amendment One...

    ...dripping with irony, as usual...

  • mmtlash Aug 23, 2012

    I think that the laws to protect folks from predatory towing should be allowed....not so sure about the whole cell phone thing tho...

  • sjb2k1 Aug 23, 2012

    Still not over that are you? Thank goodness the people of NC spoke and spoke loud.
    ncouterbanks69
    60% of a percentage of eligible voters got to take my rights away, during a freakin primary election when even fewer people turn out than normal november election time, probably not just going to "get over it"

  • sjb2k1 Aug 23, 2012

    honestly aside from the price fixing i'm okay with those towing requirements. i've been towed from a "no parking" zone that was not marked as such...tow guy was just trying to make money off me. that was in raleigh but regardless.

  • DrJ Aug 23, 2012

    "Don't forget the Conservatives! They even want to regulate what goes on in people's bedrooms!"

    No they don't, Lightfoot. You're just wrong on that.

  • ncouterbanks69 Aug 23, 2012

    Don't forget the Conservatives! They even want to regulate what goes on in people's bedrooms!

    Still not over that are you? Thank goodness the people of NC spoke and spoke loud.

  • ncouterbanks69 Aug 23, 2012

    It's OK as long as they just tow those gas guzzling planet killing SUV's, amirite?

    LOL...pretty sure they will tow your precious prius as well. The judge performed justice on this stupid law and I am glad we have at least some people in power that have some sense.

  • mpheels Aug 23, 2012

    The towing ordinance went too far, but come components were good and should be passed on their own.

    Tow zones should be clearly marked. This isn't a problem right now - every lot I've seen is well marked, but it's worth having on the books. In addition to company name and phone number, tow notice signs should include the minimum tow fee, payment methods accepted, and use of CCTV to monitor lots.

    Tow companies should have to notify the police dept when they tow a car. Maybe not before hooking up, but within 30 minutes. This requirement saves a lot of time and money for the town when police can notify a person their car was towed, not stolen.

    I like the maximum distance rule, but can see how it went too far. A better rule might be to restrict impound lots to within Orange County.

    I don't see how the town can set maximum fees or control payment accepted.

  • Lightfoot3 Aug 23, 2012

    "The marxists, communists, liberals, and socialists in Chapel Hill won't be happy until they regulate all parts of our life." - ConservativeVoter


    Don't forget the Conservatives! They even want to regulate what goes on in people's bedrooms!

  • ConservativeVoter Aug 23, 2012

    The marxists, communists, liberals, and socialists in Chapel Hill won't be happy until they regulate all parts of our life.

    Another reason not to live in Chapel Hill.

    The city council, mayor, and city manager in Raleigh love Chapel Hill because they look conservative in comparison.

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