The Sparta Township Council has established procedures for towing away abandoned, disabled, illegally parked and stolen vehicles on public property.
A new ordinance regulating towing services passed 3-2 on Sept. 22, after a second reading and public hearing. Mayor Jerard Murphy and Councilman Dan Chiariello voted against it.
Chiariello said he was concerned with the ordinance’s definition of the term “abandoned,” as a vehicle without current registration or license plates parked for more than 48 hours or in a position that obstructs traffic. His concerns stemmed from an incident his father experienced in Hopatcong.
“I am concerned that that the way the ordinance is worded, that it would give the town the right to remove vehicles off people’s property,” Chiariello said.
Police Chief Neil Spidaletto said the ordinance was written to be in line with Title 39, which does not include removing vehicles from private property. Any vehicle on public property must be either insured or operable, he said.
“If it’s in your yard and has four tires on it, it has to be insured,” Spidaletto said.
Councilwoman Molly Whilesmith said she agreed that the language could be tightened to reflect Chiariello’s concerns but didn’t think a vehicle would be considered abandoned if it was on private property.
“I support the ordinance as written because I trust the police to not encroach on other people’s property rights,” she said.
Murphy questioned a requirement that towing companies need to arrive at the scene within 20 minutes of police notification unless hampered by heavy traffic or inclement weather. He asked if the time frame could be expanded to 30.
“Reason I am asking, I’ve seen an instance in another municipality where they did shorten it to 20 minutes, which precluded outside towing services the ability to get there,” Murphy said. “That was restrictive.”
Spidaletto said he was assured the towing companies could meet the 20-minute time frame.
Murphy also asked if storage facilities must be within township limits or a contiguous municipality.
“I feel that is exclusionary,” Murphy said. “We have towing services out of the town of Newton that can get here well within 20 minutes.”