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Cars towed in Azalea Festival parking mix-up

READ MORE: Cars towed in Azalea Festival parking mix-up

WILMINGTON -- Private property generally means no parking for drivers. But a situation this weekend over a vacant lot in Wilmington had some drivers confused with costly consequences. Several cars were towed from a private downtown property at the request of the owner, but several people who were towed said they had parked there many times before with permission and without a problem. It all started on Saturday morning when several local drivers went to pick up their parked cars at North Fourth and Brunswick Streets. But the cars weren't there. Instead they had been towed, and they say without warning and without telling them where. Now, the question is: were they allowed to park there? The owner of this vacant lot on north fourth and Brunswick Street says on his lot no signs, no permission means no parking. "I was actually there. I directed the tow truck to the cars and stayed at the lot for the whole day." That's why Robert Brunson had several cars towed from his property next to the Goat and Compass. Bar owners said months ago they got permission from Sadie Davis, a relative of Brunson's, for their patrons to park there. There was never a problem until this past Saturday. Shea McCombs is frustrated over the car towing. She said, "I woke up and came here and found my car had been towed. In a lot that we thought that we had permission to park in." When it comes to parking lots, towing is not allowed unless there are clearly visible signs that say "no parking." Even though people regularly park on the lot on Fourth Street, city police say they don't consider it to be an official parking lot, so the rules governing parking lots don't really apply here. It's just a private lot, where owners would be justified in having people towed if they didn't want them parked here. They are in the process of having signs made that say no parking to prevent future confusion. "They're already in the process because the tow company truck said the same thing. He said talk to the police that are out there and they said the same thing...they said although its common sense that that is private property and they're parking on your lot and you can tow them, its better if you get signs and put them up so they know that you can't park there and will be towed. So those signs are already in the process of being made." The unresolved question here seems to be the permission the patrons thought they had to park in this lot. Also, is it possible for people who get their cars towed to get their money back. The city attorney has said he is willing to investigate the claim. We'll check back with him tomorrow.

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My side of the story.

Since there are so many comments as to whether or not I have the right to be upset over my car being towed I thought I would take the time to tell my side of the story - unedited by news reporters. First of all, I'd like to say that from the way the story is being reported, I'm not sure I would agree with me if I were an unbiased viewer. The reporters involved have all been very nice and very thorough, however I do not feel they have clearly explained my argument. Second, I am not trying to make myself look like a victim. I did not call the news station, they called me. I am happy to tell my story though, and I hope it helps other people to realize that they can stand up for themselves if they feel they are being jerked around. Third, I did not attempt to break my car out of the tow lot without paying my fines. There was an accident involving the fence at Kirby's, but I was not in the vehicle, nor did I have any intention of breaking my car out. I had been on the phone with the police and the owner of the towing company all morning and had given them all of my information, so obviously it would not have beneficial for me to get my car back illegally. Those things being said I would like to clear up why exactly I am upset with the towing companies. Prior to the lot being for sale, there was a sign that indicated the lot would be used for a future funeral home. A call was made to the number on the sign and permission was granted to park on the lot occasionally, as it was not being used for anything else in the meantime. It was assumed that the permission was granted by the owner. As of this point, I am unaware of who the actual owner is and what the relationship is between those involved. The morning I woke up and found my car had been towed, to the best of my knowledge my car was parked in a safe spot. When I found my car missing I approached the police officers that had been posted at the intersection of 4th and Brunswick and they told me that there were cars towed out of the lot by a gentleman that said he had LEASED the lot from the owner for the Azalea festival to charge for parking. I could not verify who this person was because there was not anybody there at that point and nobody showed up for a few hours - after I found my car. I was then told by the police that because they did not have the vehicle towed I had to call over 20 different towing companies to figure out who had it. At this point I was still upset because I believed I had permission to park there, and when I indicated that to the towing company they told me it was not their job to check whether or not the person calling actually owns the lot where the vehicles are being towed from. I regularly help organize festivals and know that if a vehicle is going to be towed the person leasing the lot MUST have a signed contract by the owner indicating permission to have vehicles removed. After speaking with 2 police officers and a sergeant I was informed that even if the owner had called to have my car towed, without having signs posted the towing company was subject to fines for 'trespass towing.' Trespass towing, as quoted from the municipal code pasted below is, according to these officers, a scam by local towing companies that they get away with because nobody ever fights them on it. From what I have been told, the police are aware of the problem, however, cannot do anything about it without complaints from those affected. A residential property that has a home occupying it does not qualify as trespass towing if the owner would like a vehicle removed, only a vacant lot. The section and article I am referring to are as follows: Sec. 5-121.2. Trespass towing of vehicles from private parking lots; signs required. (a) No vehicle, of any size or weight, shall be towed from a private parking lot for designated parking violations unless a sign is conspicuously posted and clearly visible at all vehicle and pedestrian entrances to the property. The sign shall be no smaller than four (4) square feet in area. The sign must clearly provide the following information. (...) (2) The telephone number of the person from whom a towed-away vehicle can be recovered. (...) (b) The posting of a sign is not required by the property owner or lessee of a family residence to remove a vehicle from the driveway, lawn or what is commonly understood to be the yard. The ordinance continues, but I included all pertinent information. I understand that the lot may not have been intended to be a private parking lot, however, I have lived in the building across the street for over a year and as long as I have lived there the lot was used as such. It was the assumption of myself, as well as many others, that this was the intended use and to this point there had been no indication to the contrary. Whether or not permission was directly granted, the owners must have been aware of this and had not made any attempt prior to this incident to inform the owners of the vehicles parked in the lot otherwise. If you have read this far, thank you for allowing me to speak my mind on the matter. Also, I would like to apologize to the family that does own the lot, whomever that is, for all of their trouble over this matter. Had I known they did not wish for vehicles to park there, I would not have. I was under the impression they were allowing the land to be used for that purpose to alleviate some of the parking problems the residents do have. There is currently minimal street parking and the lot located on the backside is $40 per month, per vehicle to park. With all of my frustrations towards the towing companies for blatantly ignoring a law that they were aware of, and that would have protected my vehicle, I never meant for the family to endure such difficulties - especially Ms. Davis.

Not the tow company's fault

Looks like to me you should be mad at the person that had your vehicle towed and not the tow company. If your vehicle was towed, then someone had called the tow company to have your vehicle removed. The Tow company was doing their job. Maybe you should file a civil lawsuit against the person that told you you were allowed to park their, or the owner of the property....but I don't see how you can have a grip with the tow company

Car towing

The lot where the lady parked was not her property so therfore she had no business parking there. Also during her interview with WWAY she left the part out where the guy she was with rammed his vehicle through Kirbys fence to take her car without paying the fines. IF you gonna tell part of the story tell all the story. This lady is making herslef out to be the victim when they about hit the owner of Kirbys as they were ramming into the fence.

When will people stop being

When will people stop being surprised at a**holes in New Hanover/Brunswick counties?

Not just...

**chuckle** Well I think the problem runs further than just New Hanover and Brunswick counties but I take your meaning....

its not a parking lot

its not a parking lot plain and simple,i do agree that the owner could have been more plasant about it and left a note to not park here anymore or as he said he was there he could have just told them. even though it happen like this with all the news about it sign or no signs i dont think anyone will be parking there anymore.

The smart thing to do......

It's a bittersweet deal here. It is the man's land and he can do what he wants with it, this IS still America you know. Some people just choose to make it hard on others when they have the opportunity. Based on that principle he could compromise...... Get a chair, a ballcap and an orange vest. When people pull into the lot, charge them a fair fee for the day, cash only. People get to park there, he get's some money in his pocket, a smile on his face and saves all those phone calls to the wrecker service......... This is the beach, let's chill a little and smile!

I second you on that one,

I second you on that one, make some money, and help some people out at the same time. Its things like this that go on whenever downtown is busy that makes me go out of town when its the Azalea Fest or Riverfest. The traffic alone is enough to put a damper on the whole weekend.


Robert Brunson owner huh, If you do a tax record search for him in New Hanover county it does not show any record of him owning any property. Not even the one on 4th street. Acme Art Inc. owns the lot and he is not on there articles of incorporation per NC secretary of state filings.

Parking Mixup

Some where around 20 plus years ago I attended the last Azalea parade in Wilmington that I ever plan to attend. I had grown up going to the parade every year since I was a young child. On this particular day, I left home with my three young children and arrived in Wilmington around 6 am. I parked on a side street about 3 blocks from the police station. There were several other cars parked there also. When returning from the parade with my three tired, sunburned and exhausted children, chairs, and other items, I found my car and the one behind me had been towed. I didn't know where to go or what to do. When the other person arrived to find their car gone we decided to walk to the police station to find out where our cars were. In the place of our cars was the trailer that had brought the Clydesdale horses. They had towed our cars so they could park there and unload their horses, and never had there been any sign that you couldn't park there, but now there were two yellow signs at the front and year of the trailer saying no parking. The police dept told us where our cars were and what it would cost us to get them back. We explained our situation to the police and I refused to pay anything. I talked to the towing company owner and told him I had 3 young children and he so kindly came and picked us up and then returned my car and didn't charge me anything. He was very nice to me and my children and I can't remember the name of the company but it was on Hwy 421. Needless to say, that was my last time I ever attended the Azalea parade. I feel for these people who had their cars towed and hope your experience was not as dramatizing as ours. I have no desire to ever give anyone the chance to tow my car again, even though my children are grown and I have grandchildren now. I would love to carry them to a parade at sometime, somewhere, but rest assured it won't be in Wilmington, NC>

Since when can "a relative" give permission?

Gee, can your cousin tell a friend that it's okay to borrow YOUR lawn mower? Unless Sadie Davis owns that property, or is somehow employed by Mister Brunson to manage that property, Sadie Davis CAN'T give permission to park on that property. WHO does not know that? The owners of the Goat and Compass should pay the towing charges in the spirit of customer relations. After all, they are the ones who were foolish enough to believe that someone other than the owner could give permission to park on private property, and passed inaccurate information on to the people who had their cars towed. Legal lesson for the stupid and naive: Always get "permission" in writing.

Since when can "a relative" give permission?

If that person was acting as agent for the owner, even without the owner's permission, that person can bind the owner, legally. It's up to the owner to disavow the agent.


Stop your whining! If you park in someone's yard or their "empty lot", expect to get towed! Stop blaming the owner for not liking the fact that YOU parked on their property! Look at it from their view. Get off my property! It's not like they didn't provide enough free parking downtown!

Its not tresspassing without

Its not tresspassing without notice in NC either by written or verbal communication to an each individaul. i.e. a n trespassing sign (not posted btw)

OK, I misread Guests

OK, I misread Guests comments....According to NC GS 14-159.13: Without authorization, enters or remains, on premises of another after being notifited not to enter or remian. This is second degree trespassing. But like the other poster stated, I may not be able to have you arrested with trespassing, but I can have your vehicle towed.

Are you serious???

So what you are saying is that you can come onto my yard or go in my back yard and it's not trespassing because I don't have a sign up??? You've got to be kidding me!!!! Please show me where the law states that a 'No Trespassing" sign has to be posted


True that without a posted sign, verbal warning, or a premises so enclosed or secure to keep out intruders it does not meet the elements for trespass, however, it is the rights of the owner of the land to have the vehicles removed from his property without any notice to the vehicle owner at no cost to him.

car towing

These towing Co's in wilmington are out to make a fast is like they sit downtown and wait for someone to make a wrong move. One day my daughter had a package to drop off at the ups store downtown. The package was going to Iraq and it weighed a good 70lbs, and she had her 1 yr old son that was sick with her. She thought that she parked in a loading zone and she had to push the box with her feet and hold her child in her arms. She got in the store and turned around and watched her car being towed!!! Now you know that they had to of been sitting right there and waiting. The worst of it all was her sons meds were in the car and so was his car seat!!!!!!!!!Grrrrr along with a 150.00 this was heartless. Somebody needs to step in and do something about these tow co's because now they can say oh it is going to a good cause...yep right in their pocket.

Is that all of the story???

Sorry, but part of your story doesn't make sense. Tow companies will not just tow your vehicle. Either a business owner would have to make a complaint and call for yout vehicle to be towed or LE will have to call for a tow truck. Tow companies don't have the authority to just tow any vehicle.

its the law

NC G.S. 20-162(b) reads: "No person shall park a vehicle or permit it to stand, whether attended or unattended upon any public vehicular area, street, highway, or roadway in any area designated as a fire lane. This prohibition includes designated fire lanes in a shopping center or mall parking lots and all other public vehicular areas. Provided, however, persons loading or unloading supplies or merchandise may park temporarily in a fire lane located in a shopping center or mall parking lot as long as the vehicle is not left unattended. Loading and unloading does not mean just waiting for someone to come out." In your comment you said she parked in a "loading zone". Under this statue any area marked with a yellow curb, or yellow marking on pavement, or with a minimum 24" x 24" sign falls under fire lane. Sorry, but its the law. The tow companies are established for a reason and they did their job. They also have bills to pay.

car towing

Look the towing company is doing there job, if I could make money by watching stupid people do stupid things I would. Is it the towing companies fault that she has a kid, and why didn't you watch her kid, if she parked in a no parking zone, then it is her fault. Get over it and, blam yourself for your daughters mistakes, you raised her....

A "relative" gave permission?

Let me get this straight... the bar owners got permission to park on private property from a "relative" of the actual property owner, and they thought that was permission enough? LOL! They may as well have asked the owner's neighbor's high-school sweetheart if it was ok. Good grief.




What a jerk... An empty lot... You would figure he could have done the right thing and just slip a "never park here again" note under the wipers.. But no.. he had to go and coast a bunch of people a bunch of money... How could someone be so mean.........

Empty Lot

So you would be OK if people came and just parked in your yard because they said someone that knew you said it would be OK? How do you know he didn't have plans to park there or if he had friends coming into town that planned to park there...and then finds other people parking there. If anyone needs to pay these people it's Sadie Davis. She's the one that caused these people to get towed. Did she really have permission from Mr. Brunson...from the article it sounds like she didn't.


Yeah... as IF that was going to stop people from parking there. Maybe he needed the space for his own needs. Like... oh... who knows... maybe for his friends/family to park there for the Azalea festival? It is HIS property after all. People need to stop looking to blame other people for their own stupidity and ignorance.

He needed so he could

He needed so he could initially charge $5 per car then change the price to $7 as he marked out 5$ on his sign. Also he was not there all day as I was up and down 4th street several times that day.

His property, his right

Whether he was there all day or not it doesn't matter. It is his lot and he didn't give anyone permission to park there. It's his right to have those vehicles towed. Whether he wanted the vehicles towed who he or is family/friends could park there or so he could charge people to park there is insignificant.