A Towson towing company that faced criticism for its heavy enforcement in privately owned lots that abut Baltimore County lots agreed last week to add new signage to make it clear towing was an option.
"We've had a lot of problems with the inadequate signage up there, which caused a lot of confusion with a lot of people," Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, said.
The issue centered on two lots. One, behind 22 W. Pennsylvania Ave., is permit parking for that building on weekdays until 5 p.m., and paid public parking at all other times. The other, at 27 Allegheny Ave., is also privately owned but allows paid public parking throughout the day.
But there has been confusion over signage and where to pay to park in the private lot. The pay stations for private and county lots resemble one another, and business leaders said in April that signage at the private lot is indistinguishable from the county's signage.
Now, new signs will stress the lots and pay station are separate from the county-owned lots and direct drivers to the proper pay station.
The new signs, according to renderings provided by Councilman David Marks, clearly indicate that towing is enforced at the lot, and that the private lot is not affiliated with the Revenue Authority. The signs also point to the correct pay station to use.
In recent months, business patrons have found that the consequences for parking in the wrong lot or not having a valid ticket displayed can be great.
At county-operated lots, unpaid vehicles or vehicles with expired tickets are fined.
On the private lots, cars with expired tickets, no tickets or Revenue Authority tickets used in error were towed by Pollard's Towing, which was contracted to enforce the parking code on the private lots.
Hafford estimated that hundreds of cars have been towed since the enforcement began in early March. Since then, she has fielded countless calls from customers of Towson business owners and customers.
Some, including Ciro Scotto, owner of Towson Hot Bagels and Strapazza, went as far as making their own signs to inform customers of where not to park. Scotto also had staff feeding meters in the lots to prevent customers from being towed.
According to Marks, who represents the 5th District including Towson, a Thursday meeting including himself, Hafford, Pollard's Towing owner Cooper Pollard, and Baltimore County Revenue Authority CEO Ken Mills brought about the resolution.
"I really want to stress how willing Pollard's Towing has been to make any changes they possibly could, and we really appreciate that they've come up with signage that we feel will distinguish those lots from county lots," Hafford said.
Cooper Pollard said, it was in the community's interest "to change (the signage) so it's a little clearer with everyone."
"We're more than willing to work with everyone in the community, but the business owner is trying to protect his interest," Pollard said. "He's trying to make money on the parking, and when people don't pay, he can't."
Had new signage not been agreed on, Marks said the next step "would have probably been (exploring) whether there was anything the Revenue Authority or County Council could do officially."
Hafford is relieved the situation is resolved.
"It gave Towson a little bit of a black eye, and we're really hoping that this will eliminate the majority of the problem," Hafford said.