CHAPTER 81:  ABANDONED, JUNKED AND NUISANCE VEHICLES
Section
   81.01   Definitions
   81.02   Administration and enforcement
   81.03   Abandoned vehicles unlawful; removal authorized; abandoned vehicles on private property
   81.04   Nuisance vehicles unlawful; removal authorized
   81.05   Removal of abandoned or nuisance vehicles; pre-towing requirements
   81.06   Exceptions to prior notice requirement
   81.07   Responsibility for costs of removal
   81.08   Removal of vehicles; post-towing notice requirements
   81.09   Right to probable cause hearing before sale or final disposition of vehicle
   81.10   Redemption of vehicle during proceedings
   81.11   Sale and disposition of unclaimed vehicle
   81.12   Conditions on removal of vehicles from private property
   81.13   Protection against criminal or civil liability
   81.14   Exceptions
   81.15   Unlawful removal of impounded vehicle
Statutory Reference:
   See also G.S. §§ 160A-303, 160A-303.2
§ 81.01  DEFINITIONS.
   When used in this chapter, the following words, terms and phrases shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:
   ABANDONED VEHICLE. Is a vehicle that:
      (1)   Is left upon a public street or highway in violation of a law or ordinance prohibiting parking;
      (2)   Is left on a public street or highway for longer than seven days or is determined by law enforcement to be a hazard to the motoring public;
      (3)   Is left on property owned or operated by the town for longer than 24 hours; or
      (4)   Is left on private property without the consent of the owner, occupant or lessee of such property for longer than two hours.
   AUTHORIZING OFFICIAL(S). The Police Department or the code enforcement officer, respectively, designated to authorize the removal of vehicles under the provisions of this chapter.
   CODE ENFORCEMENT OFFICER. The town employee(s) designated by the Town Manager to enforce the provisions of this chapter.
   JUNKED MOTOR VEHICLE. A vehicle that:
      (1)   Is partially dismantled or wrecked;
      (2)   Cannot be self-propelled or moved in the manner in which it was originally intended to move; or
      (3)   Does not display a current license plate lawfully upon that vehicle.
   MOTOR VEHICLE AND VEHICLE. All machines designed or intended to travel over land by self-propulsion or while attached to any self-propelled vehicle.
   NUISANCE VEHICLE. A junked motor vehicle on public or private property that is determined and declared by the code enforcement officer to be a health or safety hazard to neighboring residents or businesses or to the public, including but not limited to a vehicle found to:
      (1)   Be a point of concentration of gasoline, oil or other flammable or explosive materials;
      (2)   Have accessible areas of confinement that cannot be opened from the inside, such as trunks, hoods, etc.;
      (3)   Be in danger of falling or turning over;
      (4)   Be a point of collection of garbage, food waste, animal waste, or any other rotten or putrescible matter of any kind;
      (5)   Have exposed sharp parts or edges of metal or glass; or
      (6)   Otherwise pose a health and safety hazard as determined by the code enforcement officer.
(Ord. passed 12-16-2019)
§ 81.02  ADMINISTRATION AND ENFORCEMENT.
   (A)   The police department and the code enforcement officer(s) shall be responsible for the administration and enforcement of this chapter. The police department shall be responsible for administering the removal and the disposition of vehicles determined to be abandoned on the streets and highways within the town and on property owned by the town. The code enforcement officer(s) shall be responsible for administering the removal and disposition of abandoned and nuisance vehicles located on private property.
   (B)   If the appropriate inspecting officer(s) have probable cause to expect a violation of this chapter, they shall have the right to enter on any premises within the town limits at any reasonable hour in order to determine if any vehicle is in violation of this chapter.
   (C)   The town may, on an annual basis and with prior approval of the Town Council, contract with private tow truck operators to remove, store and dispose of abandoned vehicles and/or nuisance vehicles in compliance with this chapter and applicable state laws.
   (D)   Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to limit the legal authority or powers of officers of the town police department or fire department in enforcing other laws or otherwise carrying out their duties.
(Ord. passed 12-16-2019)
§ 81.03  ABANDONED VEHICLES UNLAWFUL; REMOVAL AUTHORIZED; ABANDONED VEHICLES ON PRIVATE PROPERTY.
   (A)   It shall be unlawful for the registered owner or person entitled to possession of a vehicle to cause or allow such vehicle to be an abandoned vehicle.
   (B)   Upon investigation, proper authorizing officials of the town may determine that a vehicle is an abandoned vehicle and order the vehicle removed.
   (C)   Notwithstanding prior subdivision (B), if an abandoned vehicle is located on private property, it shall be towed only at the direction of the property owner. Town officials will assume no responsibility for the removal of abandoned vehicles from private property.
(Ord. passed 12-16-2019)
Cross reference: 
   See also Towing and Booting (Chapter 73) for regulations governing non-consensual towing from private parking lots.
§ 81.04  NUISANCE VEHICLES UNLAWFUL; REMOVAL AUTHORIZED.
   (A)   It shall be unlawful for the registered owner or person entitled to possession of a vehicle, or for the owner, lessee or occupant of the real property upon which the vehicle is located to leave or allow the vehicle to remain on the property after it has been declared a nuisance vehicle.
   (B)   Upon investigation, the code enforcement officer may determine and declare that a vehicle is a health or safety hazard and a nuisance vehicle, and order the vehicle removed.
(Ord. passed 12-16-2019)
§ 81.05  REMOVAL OF ABANDONED OR NUISANCE VEHICLES; PRE-TOWING REQUIREMENTS.
   (A)   Except as set forth in § 81.06, an abandoned or nuisance vehicle that is to be removed shall be towed at the direction of the town only after notice to the registered owner or person entitled to possession of the vehicle. In the case of a nuisance vehicle, if the names and mailing addresses of the registered owner or person entitled to the possession of the vehicle, or the owner, lessee or occupant of the real property upon which the vehicle is located, can be ascertained in the exercise of reasonable diligence, notice to remove the vehicle within 15 days from receipt of the notice shall be given by certified mail or by hand delivery by the appropriate authorizing official. The person who mails or hand delivers the notice shall retain a written record to show the names and addresses to which the notice was mailed or delivered and the date of such mail or delivery.
   (B)   If such names and addresses cannot be ascertained or if the vehicle to be removed is an abandoned vehicle, or if notice attempted in accordance with division (A) above is refused by addressee, notice shall be given by affixing on the windshield or some other conspicuous place on the vehicle a notice indicating that the vehicle will be removed by the town no sooner than 15 days for a nuisance vehicle, or seven days for an abandoned vehicle, after the notice is affixed or mailed, unless the vehicle is moved by the owner or legal possessor prior to that time. Notice may be given in such a manner concurrently with notice given in accordance with subdivision (A) above, even where such notice is properly given and accepted by the addressee.
   (C)   With respect to abandoned or nuisance vehicles for which notice is required to be given, if the registered owner or person entitled to possession does not remove the vehicle but chooses to appeal the determination that the vehicle is an abandoned or nuisance vehicle, such appeal shall be made in writing and delivered to the Town Manager within seven days of the owner's receipt of notice of removal. The appeal shall be heard by the Town Manager within ten days of receipt of the appeal. Further proceedings to remove the vehicle shall be stayed until the appeal is heard and decided. In the event the owner or person entitled to possession fails to reasonably pursue the appeal, the appeal shall be deemed abandoned and the vehicle ordered removed.
(Ord. passed 12-16-2019)
§ 81.06  EXCEPTIONS TO PRIOR NOTICE REQUIREMENT.
   The requirement that notice be given prior to the removal of an abandoned or nuisance vehicle may, as determined by the authorizing official, be omitted in those circumstances where there is special need for prompt action to eliminate a traffic obstruction or otherwise maintain and protect the public safety and welfare. Such findings shall be entered by the authorizing official in the appropriate daily records. Circumstances justifying the removal of a vehicle without prior notice include:
   (A)   Vehicles abandoned on the streets. For a vehicle left on the public streets and highways, a law enforcement officer may determine that immediate removal of such vehicle is warranted if the vehicle is:
      (1)   Obstructing traffic;
      (2)   Parked in violation of an ordinance prohibiting or restricting parking;
      (3)   Parked in a no stopping or standing zone;
      (4)   Parked in a loading zone;
      (5)   Parked in a bus zone; or
      (6)   Parked in violation of temporary parking restrictions imposed under any state or local law.
   (B)   Other abandoned or nuisance vehicles. With respect to an abandoned or nuisance vehicle left on property other than the streets and highways, such a vehicle may be removed without giving prior notice only in circumstances where the authorizing official finds a special need for prompt action to protect and maintain the public health, safety and welfare. By way of illustration and not of limitation, such circumstances include those in which a vehicle is blocking or obstructing ingress or egress to a businesses or residence, poses a traffic hazard, or is causing damage to public property or to the private property of another.
(Ord. passed 12-16-2019)
§ 81.07  RESPONSIBILITY FOR COSTS OF REMOVAL.
   (A)   Owner responsible for removal costs. Except as provided at division (B), if an abandoned vehicle or nuisance vehicle is removed by or at the direction of the town, the vehicle owner shall pay all reasonable costs incidental to the removal and storage of such vehicle and incidental to locating the owner thereof.
   (B)   Town to pay costs of removing nuisance vehicles in certain cases. If a vehicle is declared to be a nuisance vehicle, the property owner may, upon written request and waiver of any claim for damages, request that the town remove the vehicle at no expense. In order to have a vehicle removed at no expense to the property owner, a signed consent form and vehicle title of ownership must be given to the town and the towing company. If the above-stated requirements are not provided to the town, civil penalties shall be issued for a maximum of 10 days for each day the vehicle remains in violation. If the vehicle remains on the property in excess of 10 days, the violation and civil penalties may be handled as a civil action in small claims court and the vehicle may be ordered to be removed from the property.
(Ord. passed 12-16-2019)
§ 81.08  REMOVAL OF VEHICLES; POST-TOWING NOTICE REQUIREMENTS.
   (A)   Any abandoned or nuisance vehicle which has been ordered to be removed may, as directed by the town, be removed to a storage garage or area by the tow truck operator or towing business contracting to perform such services for the town. In accordance with G.S. § 20-219.11, whenever such a vehicle is removed, the authorizing official shall immediately notify the last known registered owner of the vehicle, such notice shall include the following:
      (1)   The description of the removed vehicle;
      (2)   The location where the vehicle is stored;
      (3)   The violation with which the owner is charged, if any;
      (4)   The procedure the owner must follow to redeem the vehicle; and
      (5)   The procedure the owner must follow to request a probable cause hearing on the removal.
   (B)   If the vehicle has a North Carolina registration plate or registration, notice shall be given to the owner within 24 hours; if the vehicle is not registered in this state, notice shall be given to the owner within 72 hours from the removal of the vehicle. This notice shall, if feasible, be given by telephone. Whether or not the owner is reached by telephone, notice shall be mailed to his last known address unless he or his agent waives this notice in writing.
   (C)   Whenever an abandoned or nuisance vehicle is removed, and such vehicle has no valid registration or registration plates, the authorizing official shall make reasonable efforts, including checking the vehicle identification number, to determine the last known registered owner of the vehicle and to notify him or her of the information set forth in divisions (A)(1) through (A)(5) of this section.
(Ord. passed 12-16-2019)
§ 81.09  RIGHT TO PROBABLE CAUSE HEARING BEFORE SALE OR FINAL DISPOSITION OF THE VEHICLE.
   (A)   After the removal of an abandoned vehicle or nuisance vehicle, the owner or any person entitled to possession is entitled to a hearing for the purpose of determining if probable cause existed for removing the vehicle as provided at G.S. § 20-219.11. A request for hearing must be filed in writing with the county magistrate designated by the chief district court judge to receive such hearing requests. The magistrate will set the hearing within 72 hours of receipt of the request, and the hearing will be conducted in accordance with the provisions of G.S. § 20-219.11.
   (B)   The only issue at this hearing is whether or not probable cause existed for the towing. If the magistrate finds that probable cause did exist, the tower's lien continues. If the magistrate finds that probable cause did not exist, the tower's lien is extinguished.
   (C)   Any aggrieved party may appeal the magistrate's decision to district court.
   (D)   The town shall pay the towing and storage charges if the court's final decision is that no probable cause existed for the tow.
(Ord. passed 12-16-2019)
§ 81.10  REDEMPTION OF VEHICLE DURING PROCEEDINGS.
   Unless such vehicle is being detained by police as evidence, in accordance with G.S. § 20-219.12 the vehicle owner may obtain possession of a removed vehicle by paying the towing fee, including any storage charges, or by posting a bond for double the amount of such fees and charges to the tow truck operator or towing business having custody of the removed vehicle.
(Ord. passed 12-16-2019)
§ 81.11  SALE AND DISPOSITION OF UNCLAIMED VEHICLE.
   (A)   Consent of owner. With the consent of the registered owner, the town or tow truck operator may dispose of any vehicle without holding it for any prescribed period of time.
   (B)   Sale of vehicle. An abandoned or nuisance vehicle shall be held for a period of at least 30 days, during which time the owner may claim it by exhibiting proof of ownership to the town or towing business having custody of the vehicle and by paying the costs incidental to its towing and storage. After being held for 30 days, a vehicle may be sold in accordance with the provisions of G.S. §§ 44A-4, 44A-5, and 44A-6, provided that, if the town is responsible for collecting towing or removal fees, no hearing in addition to the probable cause hearing described in § 81.09 shall be required. If no one purchases the vehicle at the sale, and if the value of the vehicle is less than the amount of the lien, the town may destroy the vehicle.
(Ord. passed 12-16-2019)
§ 81.12  CONDITIONS ON REMOVAL OF VEHICLES FROM PRIVATE PROPERTY.
   As a general policy, the town will not remove a vehicle from private property if the owner, occupant or lessee of such property could have the vehicle removed under applicable law. In no case will a vehicle be removed by the town from private property without a written request of the owner, occupant or lessee, except in those cases where a vehicle is a nuisance vehicle which has been ordered removed by the code enforcement officer. The town may require any person requesting the removal of an abandoned or nuisance vehicle from private property to indemnify the town against any loss, expense or liability incurred because of its removal, storage or sale.
(Ord. passed 12-16-2019)
§ 81.13  PROTECTION AGAINST CRIMINAL OR CIVIL LIABILITY.
   No person shall be held to answer in a civil or criminal action to any owner or other person legally entitled to the possession of an abandoned or nuisance vehicle for disposing of such vehicle as provided in this chapter.
(Ord. passed 12-16-2019)
§ 81.14 EXCEPTIONS.
   Nothing in this chapter shall apply to a vehicle:
   (A)   Which is located in a bona fide automobile graveyard or junkyard, as defined in G.S. § 136-143, in accordance with the Junkyard Control Act, G.S. §§ 136-141 et seq.;
   (B)   Which is in an enclosed accessory building;
   (C)   Which is on the premises of a business enterprise being operated in a lawful place and manner if the vehicle is necessary to the operation of the enterprise; or
   (D)   Which is an appropriate storage place or depository maintained in a lawful place and manner.
(Ord. passed 12-16-2019)
§ 81.15  UNLAWFUL REMOVAL OF IMPOUNDED VEHICLE.
   It shall be unlawful for any person to remove or attempt to remove from any storage facility any vehicle which has been impounded pursuant to the provisions of this chapter unless and until all towing and impoundment fees which are due, or bond in lieu of such fees, have been paid. Any person who violates this section shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $500 for each violation.
(Ord. passed 12-16-2019)