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Vehicle Impound request of Maxwell Morin re impound on 3/30/13 of a 1999 Pontiac Bonneville

Hearing Examiner #: HE-13-VI-011
Planning #:
Incident #:13B-11689
Filing Date:04/05/2013
City Contact:Officer Shannon
Hearing Date: 05/06/2013
Description: Vehicle Impound request of Maxwell Morin re impound on 3/30/13 of a 1999 Pontiac Bonneville
Decision Date: 05/08/2013
Decision Summary:Granted.

This matter came before the Bellingham Hearing Examiner for hearing on the 6th day of May 2013 on the request of Max Morin regarding the impoundment of his 1999 Pontiac vehicle by the Bellingham Police Department.
Testimony was received from Officer Michael Shannon, Bellingham Police Department; and Max Morin, Requestor.
In addition to the Bellingham Municipal Code, the following documents were considered as part of the record: Impounded Vehicle Hearing Request form for BPD Case No. 13B11689, Long-Arm Case Report for BPB 13B11689, Authorization to Tow/Impound and Inventory Record for BPB13B-11689, and Invoice No. 112119 from ASAP Towing.

On March 30, 2013, a Saturday, Max Morin parked his 1999 Pontiac Bonneville, WA license 327-WFR, (registered to Elliott Morin) at a metered parking space in the 200 block of W. Holly Street in Bellingham. He left the vehicle parked in the space in front of the Wild Buffalo. He returned to the location about one and one-half hours later to find that his vehicle was not there. When he returned he saw that hoods had been placed over the meters where his vehicle had been parked. He stated that the hoods were not in place at the time he parked his vehicle there and that other cars had been parked in adjacent spaces. A tour bus for a band playing at the Wild Buffalo was parked on the street abutting the hooded meter spaces.
The manager of the Wild Buffalo informed Bellingham Police Officer Michael Shannon that he had a permit to block off the parking spaces in front of the Wild Buffalo for March 30, 2013 in order to locate the band's bus there. The manager informed the officer that he and his staff spent about an hour looking for the owner of the Pontiac in nearby businesses before calling the Bellingham Police Department to remove the vehicle. Officer Shannon was dispatched to the location at 5:07 p.m. on March 30th. Officer Shannon issued a parking ticket to the vehicle for parking in a tow-away zone and authorized ASAP Towing to remove the vehicle. ASAP Towing arrived about 5:20 p.m. and towed the vehicle to its lot.
Max Morin redeemed his vehicle on April 1, 2013 after paying a total of $296.75, including the towing fee of $181.00, two days storage at $46.00 per day, and tax in the amount of $23.75.
BMC 11.18.020 authorizes the impoundment of vehicles that are illegally occupying a commercial loading zone or other zone where, by order of the director of engineering or chiefs of police or fire, parking is limited to designated classes of vehicles or prohibited during certain times. RCW 46.55.113 requires that such tow-away zones be posted with signage for at least 24-hours giving notice to the public that a vehicle will be removed if illegally parked in the zone. If the zone has been properly posted a vehicle may be removed at the direction of a police officer if it interferes with the proper and intended use of the zone.
Officer Shannon was not informed of the time the meter hoods were placed on the metered spaces, including the one in which Mr. Morin parked. Mr. Morin stated that he spoke to the City personnel who issued the permit to the Wild Buffalo and that they stated that the permit had been issued the day before and that it was the responsibility of the permit holder to place the hoods. He was informed that the City would have no record of when the hoods were placed on the meters.
In this case the evidence presented indicates that the proper signage was not in place at the time Mr. Morin parked his vehicle in the 200 block of W. Holly and that proper signage was not posted at least 24 hours in advance of the towing of his vehicle. Absent evidence that the required signage was posted in a timely manner the impoundment of Mr. Morin's vehicle was not proper.
The impoundment of Mr. Morin's vehicle was not proper under the circumstances. The amounts he paid for the towing and storage of the vehicle, $296.75, and the impound hearing fee, $73.00, should be reimbursed to Mr. Morin.
The Hearing Examiner does not have jurisdiction over the parking ticket issued in this incident. That matter may be addressed to Bellingham Municipal Court.

ENTERED this 8th day of May 2013.
Bellingham Hearing Examiner
Dawn Sturwold