Should the city of Ann Arbor wait longer than 48 hours to tow vehicles deemed abandoned?
The Ann Arbor City Council toughened up its city code this week, making it clear it's a towable offense to leave an inoperable vehicle stored on any city street.
Even in front of your own home.
The revisions don't change what was already in place: a rule that says the city can deem any vehicle abandoned and have it impounded if it hasn't moved for 48 hours after being tagged by an officer.
(That warning tag usually comes after a resident has called the city to complain about a car left sitting in the street in his or her neighborhood.)
The 48-hour rule applies even to vehicles that most people probably wouldn't consider abandoned, as one Lexus owner learned the hard way earlier this year.
Mahendra Ramsinghani said both of his family's cars, which he described as "newer looking" and "very clean," were left parked on the street near his house while he and his wife went on vacation. But they were deemed abandoned and towed shortly after he left town.
It cost him $825 to get his cars back.
The ordinance revisions approved by the City Council this week don't do anything to prevent situations like that from happening in the future.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
A story regarding the changes generated more than 100 comments on AnnArbor.com on Tuesday, including some from people who think the 48-hour limit seems unreasonable.
"Are you kidding me? This is ridiculously not enough time," one commenter wrote. "People can easily not drive their cars for two days in this town. We have a good public transit system. I guess using public transit, being a student or an elderly citizen that can only get around once or twice a week is now a towable offense. These obvious reasons aside, two days is unreasonable."
AnnArbor.com put the question to two of the council members who took a lead in working on the ordinance revisions: Why not increase the rule from 48 hours to something more lenient?
Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, said he's not willing to budge. He maintains the public right-of-way isn't meant for storage of private vehicles.
"The 48-hour rule is straight out of state law," he said. "Many communities such as Chelsea don't even allow any overnight parking on their city streets (i.e., no parking 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.)."
Kunselman said Ann Arbor offers a privilege, but it seems if the city gives an inch, some want a mile. And if the city offers 48 hours, some want a week.
"I don't believe the public should be subsidizing people who chose to own a car but complain that they can't afford or do not want to pay for it to park on private property," Kunselman said.
Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, said she ran into opposition trying to define what was a reasonable time that someone could store a car on the street."It's important to keep in mind that some parts of our community cannot handle parked cars, and that other parts can — but maybe the neighbors agree with those members of council who believe cars should be in drives or garages," Briere said.
Briere noted cars can be parked longer than 48 hours on the street without being towed — they just can't be parked longer than 48 hours after they've been tagged by the city.
And that's an important distinction.
"So, a car could be parked on a street for two weeks before someone from the neighborhood reports it," Briere said. "Or a car that no one recognizes could be parked over a weekend — and the neighbors would call it in, assuming it had been stolen and dumped there.
"Or a car could be parked for months before anyone complained. The 48-hour rule counts only after someone contacts the police about the car."
And even though the rule is 48 hours, the city's supervisor of community standards said back in August the city often waits 72 hours before towing as a courtesy.
What do you think? Take the poll.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.