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Published: Tuesday, 11/14/2006

Toledo proposal targets cars in backyards

Leaving cars parked in yards in Toledo could put their owners at risk of seeing their vehicles driven away behind a tow truck, under a proposed ordinance reviewed yesterday by a Toledo City Council committee.

The ordinance is aimed at giving police and city nuisance inspectors the power to issue $25 parking tickets to people who park on any unpaved section of their property.

City Law Director John Madigan said current city law prohibits front yard and side yard parking, but not backyard parking.

That would be changed under the new law.

In addition, nuisance inspectors would gain special police powers to ticket and order tows of vehicles parked illegally - not just those that are "nuisances."

Last summer, the city was forced to pay a West Toledo man $7,500 to avert a potential lawsuit after he was charged with misdemeanor assault in a chest-butting altercation with a private tow operator. The operator was summoned by the city to move a truck and trailer from the man's yard.

The threatened lawsuit came after a Toledo Municipal Court judge dismissed the charges based on a 2004 Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals opinion that the vehicles didn't fit the description of a nuisance.

Chief Michael Navarre said police have been restricted from ticketing and towing vehicles parked in rear yards unless they meet the definition of a junk car - one that is at least three years old, is apparently inoperable or extensively damaged, and is worth less than $1,500.

"Last year, we received 800 complaints. We were able to tow 100 vehicles," the chief said. "This ordinance will allow us to remove those other vehicles."

Sue Frederick, manager of code enforcement, said vehicle owners must be given at least one notice or ticket before a tow can be ordered.

Councilman Mark Sobczak, who chaired the hearing, said council members have concerns that the towing law may be enforced too zealously.

Ms. Frederick said the law would be used against people who park vehicles on the grass despite notices to move them. "These are habitual violators that we get complaint after complaint about."

She said the law would not make it illegal to park on uncurbed streets where there is a gravel parking area parallel to the road. And she said existing gravel drives are grandfathered into the law.

The committee took no action on the proposed ordinance, and Mr. Sobczak said it likely would not be voted on before council's meeting Nov. 28.



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