CHAPEL HILL – The state Court of Appeals Tuesday reversed a lower court ruling that struck down Chapel Hill’s ordinances on regulating towing companies and banning the use of cell phones while driving.
And Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says this is step towards local governments maintaining their authority.
“The real victory here is the towns and cities across North Carolina that have done a good job at providing reasonable regulations for towing in private lots,” Kleinschmidt said.
He says the cell phone ban and towing regulations are almost certain to go into affect by June 24. Court procedure is to issue a mandate 20 days after a ruling in a case, at which point the court’s ruling then becomes law.
The town originally adopted the cell phone ban in March 2012, but the ordinance never took effect because George King, operator of George’s Towing, challenged the Town Council.
Last August, Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson issued a sweeping ruling, striking down both the towing regulations and the cell phone ban.
“The decision comes a time when our general assembly, along with this decision that came from the Superior Court, has been really whittling away at the town’s ability to provide for its citizens,” Kleinschmidt said.
The towing ordinance was proposed in response to complaints about predatory towing in downtown Chapel Hill. Residents and visitors alike complained that in many lots, there weren’t enough clear signs indicating where it was and wasn’t acceptable to park—and that when they were towed, they were forced to find transportation to a distant lot, nowhere near an ATM, to find that the operators would only release their cars if they paid in cash.
“Whether they should have parked where they parked or not parked there should be room for reasonable regulations of that practice,” he said
But Kleinschmidt says the town council will likely revisit the cell phone ban in the near future as some members says it’s too restrictive. He himself voted against a complete ban, electing for a hands free option to be allowed while driving.