5 On Your Side

Ongoing property dispute leaves customers towed in the middle

Posted March 31, 2014 6:30 p.m. EDT

— When JoAnn Biggs’ car disappeared, she unknowingly became one of the latest victims in an ongoing property dispute.

Biggs, while shopping at the Kmart on Capital Boulevard in March, parked in a space meant for customers.

“We were legally parked where we were supposed to be,” she said.

When she returned to her car, it was gone.

“After we had found out that it was towed, I said ‘Oh, of course they did because I heard the story a couple months earlier,’” she said.

As 5 On Your Side reported last fall, customers from the adjacent McDonald’s have been targeted for parking in Kmart spots not clearly marked as a tow-away zone. The towing is part of a bitter property dispute between the restaurant and the store’s property owners, Z.A. Sneeden’s Sons of Wilmington.

At least 196 cars were towed between January 2013 and February of this year, according to Raleigh police.

Biggs’ Nissan was not counted among those cars. Ace Towing, which towed her vehicle, never reported it to police.

“They said ‘well why did you park there,’” Biggs said. “And we said because it was crowded and there wasn’t any place else to park any closer. And they said most people don’t do that.”

Biggs was initially told she had to pick up her car. Then the tow truck driver said he would return it - for $100.

Biggs didn’t agree to that. An hour later, her car reappeared.

“Before we could even make it half way across the parking lot, they just dumped the car and took off," she said.

Rueben Massey, owner of Ace Towing, described the incident as an accident.

“But clearly, our driver didn’t handle it properly,” he said.

The tow wasn’t reported to police because the vehicle was returned, Massey said.

After 5 On Your Side contacted the McDonald’s again about this issue, the restaurant posted a sign at one of its entrances telling customers to park in spaces painted with golden arches. But the sign does not say they could otherwise be towed.

Gaffney Gunter, who owns the McDonald's, said he will add signs at the spots where the highest number of customers have been towed.

Ace Towing repaired four warning signs in the area that were knocked down and added an additional sign.

Biggs believes the hassle was unnecessary.

“There was no reason for them to take the car to begin with,” she said.