Since 1950, Virginia Code has enabled property and business owners adversely affected by trespassing vehicles to employ towing companies to remove parking violators. On December 13, 2016 the Arlington County Board passed a towing regulation, called “second signature,” which forces property owners to allow trespassing vehicles to park on commercial and/or business property whenever and for as long as they want, unless a business or property owner is available to give their towing contractor a “secondary” authorization to allow a car to be towed.
The Arlington County Manager, ACPD representatives, Arlington County Trespass Towing Advisory Board, Arlington County Economic Development Commission, Arlington Chamber of Commerce, Apartment and Office Building Association, Northern Virginia Apartment Association, other civic groups, and many individual business and property owners have all expressed opposition to the law. Towing businesses also oppose the law.
Our towing company was founded by a former commercial property manager, who understood towing from a property and business owner’s perspective. Drawing from that perspective, we quickly recognized the second signature law would subject property and business owners to operation problems, personal safety risks, and other liabilities.
Arlington County has downplayed the signature law as an innocuous procedure for property and business owners, but as you will see, far from innocuous. For example, let’s say you’re an off-site property or business owner or manager responsible for general property operations and safety, and you contract a towing company to enforce parking restrictions to maintain property ingress, egress, keep drive lanes clear for fire emergencies, deliveries, loading/unloading, provide access to parking spaces for permit holders, tenants or the public, etc. Under the second signature law, if a trespassing vehicle needs to be towed for any reason, unless you are reachable to reauthorize towing on each occasion, parking violators cannot be towed potentially jeopardizing property operations and safety. If your trash company can’t empty your containers because they’re blocked by a parking violator, as often occurs, if you are not reachable to authorize towing a second time, the trash collection truck would likely leave and you would be subject to paying for an additional trash dump fee. The violator would be allowed to continue to block the dumpster unless until you could be reached to re-authorize towing. In a final example, let’s say your business has limited parking and is affected by parking violators not doing business with you. Under the proposed signature law those parking violators will be allowed to park on your property unless and until you can re-authorize towing for each occurrence.
I think most would agree that even with all the forms of electronic communication available today, it is not reasonable to assume that the average person can always be reachable to reauthorize towing of parking violators that might cause safety or operational hazards to a business, property, or the public. Clearly, whether intended or not, the second signature law impedes business and property owners’ ability to ensure parking availability, compromises safety considerations, and encroaches on their ability to manage daily operations and other aspects of their business adversely affected by parking violators.
In 1775, colonist and patriot Arthur Lee of the Commonwealth of Virginia said, “The right of property is the guardian of every other right.” We believe at its core the second signature law is an infringement on property rights because it de facto prevents property and business owners from being able to exercise dominion over property and ensure property safety and the right to quiet enjoyment.
The second signature law will become effective July 1, 2017 unless, during the interim, property and business owners can convince the County Board that the second signature law is harmful and poses significant risks. If parking is important to your business, you may want to write the County Board and explain why second signature isn’t good for your business. The County Board email is: Countyboard@arlingtonva.us.