Fair warning: Signs to tell visitors to Marietta ‘you will be towed’
by Rachel Miller
September 13, 2013 12:48 AM | 4049 views | 8 8 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DMDA Chairman Tom Browning stands in a parking lot near the Marietta Square where tow zone signs will be posted.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
DMDA Chairman Tom Browning stands in a parking lot near the Marietta Square where tow zone signs will be posted.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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MARIETTA — The City Council gave the green light for a city board to place signs around one private parking lot warning visitors and residents of aggressive towing practices.

On Wednesday, the council unanimously authorized the Downtown Marietta Development Authority to install the signs on the city-owned sidewalk along Anderson Street, around the corner from Johnnie MacCracken’s Pub a block from the Square.

The sign will warn motorists not to park in the private lot or run the high risk of being towed, said DMDA Chairman Tom Browning.

Browning said he ordered $700 worth of orange rectangle stands about 3 to 4 feet high that will be used to install the warning signs within 10 days. The money was funded by the DMDA.

Browning’s law firm, Browning & Smith, is at 31 Atlanta St., which he said gives him first-hand knowledge of the towing practices at the lot.

“Being across the street, I see what’s going on there,” Browning said.

The warning sign will not require any further enforcement and the city does not need a law to solve the problem, Browning said.

“Maybe we are better structured (than the City Council) to do something,” Browning said about the DMDA’s role.

When the council discussed the issue Aug. 28, Mayor Steve Tumlin warned about this type of public service announcement, asking if other non-towing businesses are accused of bad service, would there be more signs added to warn customers?

Profitable downtown towing business

Tumlin and various council members said they receive irate letters from visitors to the Square and customers of nearby businesses that claim they did not notice “no parking” signs and had to pay high fees after their vehicles were towed from the lot on the corner of Atlanta Street and Anderson Street.

Councilman Johnny Sinclair said the complaints have been an attempt to lobby the council to stop the “predatory” towing in one parking lot that appears to be luring motorists into private parking spaces.

Robert Tillman, who owns 27 Atlanta St., and the parking lot behind the building, told the council Wednesday the space is for his tenants and their customers.

Tillman said he does not want other people to park in the lot, except on Sundays when his renter Just Kiln’ Time, a pottery painting studio, is not open.

Tillman said he has lost two previous tenants over the parking lot being filled by random motorists who want free parking and will not pay the $5 charge in adjacent areas.

“We only have 23 spaces in that parking lot and everyone wants to park there,” Tillman said.

There are no banners or large signs placed by the city to direct motorists to two public parking decks, with approximately 800 spots, off Waddell Street north of the Cobb County Superior Court, Tillman said.

City-approved fee

On Wednesday, the council discussed for the first time setting a maximum towing fee inside the Marietta city limits.

The discussion started out with a proposal supported by Councilman Grif Chalfant to cap the fee at $75. But the proposal ended up with a $125 maximum charge and no additional fees allowed within the first 24 hours after a vehicle is removed. This passed unanimously.

Storage fees would apply after the first day. The $125 maximum towing fee could be raised or lowered by the council in the future.

In December 2011, the council addressed similar complaints with Tillman’s lot when his family’s Crown Towing and Recovery company was booting cars and charging a $125 removal fee. The council capped the boot removal fee at $50.

Tillman said restrictions could hinder the “protection” Crown Towing provides for the property, which he said is monitored by cameras to spot violators.

Tillman’s son, Bret Tillman, who helps to manage the Atlanta Street parking lot, told the council the $75 limit would be too low to cover fuel costs and maintain his tow trucks.

Sinclair and Councilman Philip Goldstein expressed worries about limiting how a private business operates, as well as penalizing all towing services over an issue with one company.

Georgia state law on towing specifies that signs must be “clearly visible from each and every parking space.”

Bret Tillman said it would be too expensive to place a sign at each parking spot, similar to many of the parking lots across the street near the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art.

Tumlin said the City Council is not a “lynch mob” and cannot make a law for one business to place a special notice.

Comments
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Connie Mack Jr
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September 13, 2013
Breaking News.. Chairman Brown was shocked to see another Sign appear next to his Orwellian Sign that said " Warning! This anti-sign device is to informed lost individuals on the Square that they will be force to join the Cobb County Republican Party along with being Waterboard in seeking Truth and Justice in Freedom Parking."
Concerned Mariettan
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September 13, 2013
Why did DMDA need to take action? The lot owner is in CLEAR violation of state law, and HE KNOWS IT (or at least his son does).

The signs should be paid by the property owner who is not following the law as dictated by the state, if he wishes to engage in towing or the previous "booting" practice. If it's "too expensive" to comply with state law, they should either stop towing or hire a lobbyist to change the law through the legislative process.

This is a conversation that's been going on far too long for a city with much greater issues to address. What a waste of time, ink, and server space!

At the end of the day, you and I paid for those signs, because DMDA is made up of the businesses on the Square. The property owners in the downtown Marietta district pay an extra tax on top of the 2.788 mills the City Council levies citywide for maintenance and operations. That extra millage generates "in the neighborhood of $150,000-plus," according to DMDA Chairman Tom Browning in 2011. Those taxes may be paid by a check with the name of the business, but any business owner worth their salt would pass this expense on to their customers in the form of higher prices to maintain their profit margins.

Are you happy to see $700 of YOUR money go to help someone who is in CLEAR VIOLATION OF THE LAW maintain his practices?

phat tony
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September 13, 2013
I'm going to start a towing company that only tows tow trucks - 700 dollar impound fee and overnight charges. see how those crooks like it
Just Wait
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September 13, 2013
It is a shame that the city of Marietta has so little concern for the public that they so desperately beg to come to the square that they will allow this parking problem to continue. This lot owner is making Marietta look foolish for not making and enforcing reasonable ordinances that protect both the public and property owners.
Watcher...
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September 13, 2013
We must respect the rights of the Property Owner!
AmericanMale
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September 13, 2013
Mr. Tillman, why don't you simply charge $20 for parking and give your tenants the authority to "validate"?! That way, you still earn bucks without the expense of a tow truck. Most people will view $5 in other lots as a deal and use them instead.
I16
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September 13, 2013
I can remember when this lot was a residence, and a Trail ways bus station.

This was the good old days when Marietta was a very good place to call home.

As for the towing Crane wrecker service was a cross the street.

Marietta Police Department across and down Atlanta Street.

I bet Mr. Mayor can remember also.
1-way anderson hill
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September 13, 2013
This parking lot is the final convenient parking choice when you enter the Square from Atlanta St and drive around the block to the right looking for parking prior to your return to Atlanta St having circled the whole block without finding parking. You don't want to keep driving in circles, so you park there, feeling like your car is safe due to your personal disregard for the numerous signs warning not to park there.

So what do we do? Add more signs for people to ignore? Really???

If the DMDA could/would stop and think "bigger picture," they might realize that while we don't control the parking lot, we do control the road that leads to the parking lot.

If a right turn from Waddell onto Anderson were illegal and dangerous due to the 2-way portion of Anderson being converted to 1-way from Atlanta Rd toward Roswell St, the problem of people 'accidentally' parking in this lot despite its existing signs would be solved.

Instead we are now going to have cars and $700 signs disappearing from that lot nightly. If the signs don't immediately disappear, what will they do? They will enable illegal parkers to opt for lots where they won't be towed until those lot owners have also had it and start towing too.

Make Anderson 1-way and, as a bonus, the cops can sit there every night catching the drunks heading to the bar when they drive up the newly 1-way'ed road the wrong way. That beats the towing company getting $75, but both the cops and the towing company would protect us from drunk drives home from the bar.

If we just put up new signs, and if these new signs work better than the old signs, drunk driving will increase as drunks find their cars still in some other lot after they leave the bar.

We could not only solve the parking issue, we could also craft a nice drunk driver trap.

Make Anderson 1-way down the hill from Atlanta St!

Make Anderson 1-way down that hill! Do it today!
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