Marietta council to study growing towing criticisms
by Rachel Miller
August 28, 2013 12:51 AM | 3011 views | 7 7 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — The City Council will once again debate towing practices that cash in on tourists being confused over which small lots off the Square are available for public parking.

Councilman Grif Chalfant said each week he receives an irate letter from a visitor to Marietta complaining about their car disappearing. Once the owners recover the vehicle from an impound lot, they vow never to come back to the city, he said.

“It is terrible for our city’s reputation,” Chalfant said.

Chalfant said that when people park in the small lots off side streets around the Square, they do not thoroughly check the signs or realize how quickly their car can be taken away.

“They don’t get out of their car thinking about reading every sign in a lot,” Chalfant said.

Georgia state law on towing specifies that signs must be placed at the entrance to a private parking lot, or in the area where parking is prohibited, and be “clearly visible from each and every parking space.”

Chalfant said he will push the council to change the city ordinance at tonight’s meeting so that the “predatory” towing companies cannot continue to discourage people wanting to do business in Marietta.

Instead of the $400 to $500 in charges it costs to retrieve a car across town, Chalfant said he wants to ban all immediate towing within the city and instead have a warning system that starts with a ticket.

“(A $50 fine) it is not as serious as taking all night getting your car back,” Chalfant said.

All-day parking

Chalfant said the issue with parking downtown is not lack of space, but the high price of parking.

The perimeter of Glover Park is lined with two-hour public parking slots that are constantly filled as people drive around in circles trying to spot the tail lights of a car about to back out of a spot.

Many travelers to Marietta are not aware of the two parking decks, with approximately 800 spots, off Waddell Street north of the Cobb County Superior Court, or their $5 charge.

Bette Andrews, who has worked at the courthouse 40 years, said even county employees must pay $9.50 every two weeks to use the parking garage and she knows some coworkers try to get around the fee by finding other areas to stash their vehicles.

There are other reserved lots on the corner of Waddell Street and Anderson Street with more than 100 spots. These parking areas have attendants in wooden shacks or sitting on folding chairs under umbrellas that charge a flat rate of $5 to use the vacant lots.

Joe Lyle of Marietta, who has worked as a parking lot attendant for more than a year, said most of the customers are regulars going to the courthouse. He added some “first-timers” will drive around the area two or three times trying to find a free option before deciding to pay.

City misses out on lunch crowd

For the paid lots, the $5 fee is collected as soon as a customer pulls in, meaning the charge does not vary if a person is parking for 30 minutes or 10 hours.

Although he works less than 2 miles from the Square at Lockheed Martin, Lee Bowling said he only comes downtown for lunch once a month.

Between the limited parking on the street, the $5 minimum parking charge for an hour lunch or taking the chance of his car being towed from a private lot, Bowling said he often goes to Smyrna to eat out.

“It is definitely inconvenient to park here,” said Bowling. “I don’t know how these small, mom-and-pop places stay open when there is no access.”

Bowling suggests the city start a free trolley service to run from a parking lot outside the downtown area into the Square during the midday rush.

On Tuesday morning, Melanie Moore of Woodstock and her 3-year-old daughter, Jaclyn, parked in the employee lot while visiting the Marietta Museum of Art at 30 Atlanta St. because the 15 public spaces next door were taken. Other spots surrounding the museum are reserved for the many law firms in the area.

“It is kind of challenging to walk several blocks with a toddler,” Moore said.

The last time she was downtown to go to the Marietta Museum of History, Moore said she had to move her car to a different slot before having lunch on the Square due to the two-hour limit on free parking.

Bad for business

Chalfant said the battle over towing practices has been waged for three to four years, with a public outcry over the parking lot around the corner from Johnnie MacCracken’s Pub at 15 Atlanta St.

Stacy Tillman, the owner of Marietta-based Crown Towing and Recovery, is contracted to remove illegally parked cars on this site and take them to the company’s impound at 503 Commerce Park Drive, east of Fairground Street between the 120 Loop and South Cobb Drive.

Before opening the tow company, Tillman was booting vehicles and charging $125 for removal, until the City Council capped that fee at $50 in December 2011.

Towing and storage firms must be issued a permit by the state and further regulated by the city in which they operate. The Marietta city code states that an attendant must be on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the impound.

The operating hours for Crown Towing is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. If a car owner calls the posted number after hours, Tillman said she tries to get someone out to the storage lot for an additional charge, but if that is not possible, the owner would have to wait until morning.

Carl Knight, who started his Big Tow company in Marietta 38 years ago, said aggressively towing patrons of Marietta and monitoring a parking lot in hopes of catching a violator “is so borderline illegal, and something I would never do.”

Knight said he does not receive many complaints about the way his towing business operates, which is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and charges a minimum of $125 to retrieve a towed vehicle.

Knight said the busiest times for his two tow trucks are when there is a free event on the Square and people knowingly park in the Starbucks and Walgreens lots on the corner of Whitlock Avenue and the 120 Loop.

It is unclear to visitors that the large county parking garages across the Square is free in the evenings and on weekends, said Knight.

Knight said he uses his own money to make sure the parking lots he services are well marked to help the downtown businesses and not take money off tourists without a reason.



Comments
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Scott S
|
August 28, 2013
To all the visitors & patrons of Marietta who’s cars have been booted and/ or towed by the Tillman’s;

Want to have some righteous & 100% legal fun?

Think about going to church… one you may not have visited before.

Specifically, going to First Baptist Church Woodstock.

FBCW is a fine, Bible-centered church and teaches about its ‘church DNA’;

FBCW says their "DNA" is to; Worship God - LOVE OTHERS - SERVE God - Invite others.

After the Sunday 9:30am service is over, Pastor Johnny Hunt receives new visitors in the pastor’s reception. Directions are announced at the end of the service.

Bring with you two or three sets of prepared print-outs from the MDJ of all the articles & editorials about this predatory booting & towing’s going back 2-3 years.

Have, carefully highlighted, the specifics about the Tillman’s high-Christian hearted income stream.

As you enter the pastors reception, there will be a number of greeters… don’t be surprised to see Brett & Stacy Tillman there among them, with their big glad-handing smiles.

You can’t miss their 'Hospitality Ministries' name tags but, take comfort that they may not recall who you are.

At this point, if you can resist throwing up on them, or punching them out, that might be best.

As you greet Pastor Johnny & exchange brief pleasantries, hand him the envelope with these re-prints within.

You might ask him if “borderline illegal” exploitation of people by members of his pastor’s reception staff (highlighted in the re-prints), is consistent with FBCW “DNA”?

Also, if you may greet Mr. Jim Law thee too… he’s basically the ‘#2 guy’ at FBCW, hand him a set too.

Old Man
|
August 28, 2013
Simple!! Put up directional signs to the parking decks - hang them from the wires across the streets if necessary. No tourists (and few employees) know where the decks are or can be used.
albert e.
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August 30, 2013
Good, cheap idea, you should be the mayor..
Community Minded
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September 08, 2013
I agree - better signage needed - i'm sure the 3 older ladies I saw whose vehicle was towed during "Art in the park" were not on their way to get a tattoo and knock back a few at MacC. I think someone is really mad at MacCrackens to keep bringing it up - but your point is valid. If they were part of the community and cared about what people thought about Marietta, they would at least put up better signage. Since they view this as a business, owning both sides of it - it will never happen.
Mayretta Guy
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August 28, 2013
I have witnessed some parking lot owners standing in/near their lot waiting for a vehicle to illegally park in their lot. Undoubtedly in less than 10 minutes a tow truck arrives and begins to remove that vehicle. I believe that some business owners near the square are getting a percentage or an already agreed on amount from towing companies to call and report illegally parked vehicles. I believe that tow truck drivers are staging nearby waiting for that call. Now I'm not sure of this practice is legal but there are people in Marietta Square stalking their prey, waiting for you!
albert e.
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August 30, 2013
I see them parking in the vacant meeting park spaces for every event on the square.
Enough Already
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August 31, 2013
To Scott S: Did your mother drop you on your head as an infant? I am just wondering because your comments are the most rediculous and unfounded that I have ever heard! You are seriously asking an entire church to bring complaints against a member because you don't like or agree with their chosen profession. How dare you quote the mission of the church and twist it for your own agenda to condemn others. Let me remind you that in your own words, the mission of the church "is

to; Worship God - LOVE OTHERS - SERVE God - Invite others." You are a fine example of "loving others and serving God" Mr. Scott S. by the inflammatory comments you left here. You are seriously questioning whether the Tillman family are Christains because you were not smart enough to park in a valid parking space on the square? What you don't seem to grasp is that life is about choices and a risk reward system. If the reward outweighs the risk (if parking in a CLEARLY marked lot is worth the chance of being towed) then by all means, park there. No one forces anyone to park illegally so if you take a chance then don't complain when you get caught! I am frankly tired of reading this nonsense in the paper. IT IS A CHOICE! IF YOU DO NOT PARK ILLEGALLY, IT REALLY DOESNT MATTER WHAT THE TILLMANS ARE DOING, NOW DOES IT? The people who complain are mad because they thought that they could outsmart the rules and get away with it. And when they get caught, there is an out cry about how evil the Tillman family is? What is wrong with our City Counsel and the patrons of the square when what they are most upset about is illegally parked cars getting towed? What about the crime rate on the square, what about that disgusting tattoo parlor that has been allowed to operate on the square? And please don't get me started about McCrackens Restaurant whose great gift to our square is a bunch of drunk people littering beer bottles and throwing up everywhere. Or is that somehow the Tillmans fault as well? Can the City Council and the readers of this paper concentrate on REAL news/problems and stop bashing a family for keeping illegal parkers out of the parking lots of property owners who have paid a pretty penny for the advantage of providing a parking lot for their patrons? Scott S. and the Marietta City Counsel.....SHAME ON YOU, YOU ARE MAKING THE CITY OF MARIETTA A HUGE JOKE! Stop whining and take responsibility for your own actions.....park illegally and get towed....put your big boy pants on and suck it up!!

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