Committee sends tow truck issue back to staff, backs Junos sound exemption

Ward 6 was declared vacant after its former councillor, Phil Squire, was appointed to a provincial tribunal that prevented him from continuing in his municipal role. Matthew Trevithick / Global News

A city committee wants staff to consult the tow truck industry about cracking down on “predatory” towing practices in London, which involve rushing to the scene of a crash and pressuring would-be customers.

The issue was brought to city hall by Ward 2 Coun. Shawn Lewis, on the heels of a first-hand experience with “chaser” towing services.

Ross’ Towing and Transportation has an exclusive contract to handle police requests for tows, but since drivers are free to call a towing company of their own choosing, Lewis said some businesses are listening to scanners and following ambulances to be the first towing company on scene.

READ MORE: Motion to discourage ‘predatory’ tow truck drivers goes before London committee

“Since bringing this item forward in the public view, I’ve heard from in excess of 30 individuals now,” said Lewis.

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During yesterday’s community and protective services meeting, Lewis recommended drafting a bylaw that would prevent operators from coming with a certain distance of a crash and hooking a vehicle without being asked.

But Mayor Ed Holder advised against putting the “tow hitch before the truck,” and suggested getting more input through staff before making a decision.

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A motion to do just that was agreed upon unanimously, and will be voted on by full council next week.

“We gave consideration to such a bylaw back when we looked at the entire business licencing bylaw in 2017,” said Orest Katolyk, London’s chief municipal law enforcement officer. “At that time, we couldn’t find any municipal purpose or rationale to do such a bylaw amendment.

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“Maybe that was because the public wasn’t calling the city when trolling tow trucks were at accident scenes.”

Ward 10 Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen, meanwhile, said there are “few bad apples” in every industry.

“These are… small to medium to large businesses that we have to remind ourselves deserve our respect,” Van Meerbergen said. “As long as we approach this in the spirit of fairness, and consultation, we can avoid throwing out — inadvertently — the baby with the bathwater.”

READ MORE: 2019 Juno organizers hoping for noise bylaw exemption

The community and protective services committee also supported a request from the organizers of The 2019 Juno Awards in March.

It still needs to go before council for a vote, but city politicians recommended granting a bylaw exemption that would allow sound from an outdoor stage until 2 a.m. from March 14 to 17, rather than 11 p.m.

The original request was to allow sound until 1 a.m.

“I think it’s wise to build in a little forgiveness time in case we do, in fact, fall behind schedule as these larger events sometimes do,” said Lewis.

There was also a discussion about giving outdoor patios the same leeway for that four-day span.

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“I can see that going over rather badly with some folks who live downtown,” said Ward 4 Coun. Jesse Helmer. “I am willing to talk about it, but prepare yourselves.”

The committee suggested asking staff to report back on a temporary exemption to amplified music on patios, which currently prevents such noise from carrying past midnight. Full council will vote on the recommendation next week.

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