Despite outspoken opposition from some local business owners, the McHenry County Board passed a measure Tuesday allowing state authorities to impose regulations on towing companies.
The measure authorizes the Illinois Commerce Commission to supervise and govern towing companies that remove trespassing vehicles from private property, a business proponents of the plan say is rife with the opportunity for fraud and "predatory towing."
"This puts safeguards in place to make sure people are treated fairly," said Nick Provenzano, chairman of the board's Law and Justice Committee.
The measure places a host of new restrictions on those towing companies ranging from how much they can charge to who they can hire and where they can take towed vehicles. Among the most objectionable regulation for towing company owners is a $125 cap on how much they can charge for a tow, a biannual registration fee of $900 and a requirement that they waive all fees if the towed vehicle's owner can't reach the towing company within an hour of the tow's occurrence.
Daniel Hunt, owner of Crystal Lake-based Anchor Towing, called the proposal a "complete and utter disaster" that would drive his company and others out of the relocation towing business. That, Hunt said, would leave businesses with no one to call when a vehicle is improperly parked or abandoned on their property.
"The backlog of abandoned and trespassing vehicles will overwhelm these businesses," he said. "The negatives far outweigh whatever positives there may be."
The plan also drew opposition from business owners who use towing companies to clear their lots of unwelcome vehicles. They fear they'll be stuck with them.
The measure, however, also had some public support Tuesday. Woodstock resident John Nelson told board members his brother was charged more than $4,000 from a towing operator after his semi-tractor was removed from a private parking lot.
"What this is, is predatory towing and it's a serious problem," Nelson said.
With Tuesday's vote, McHenry County joins Kane, DuPage, Cook, Will and Winnebago counties as the only counties in the state to turn over towing regulation to the Illinois Commerce Commission.