The Monroe County Commission will decide today whether to move forward on a plan to crack down on what Mayor Sylvia Murphy is calling "predatory tow practices."
The mayor said the problem has been ongoing for years, but "it is getting worse." Instead of responding to calls, some companies are seeking out vehicles to tow, and in the case of one company, the business is actually taking joy in towing someone's vehicle, she said.
Murphy declined to name any specific tow companies that are engaging in predatory tactics in unincorporated Monroe County.
"It is time to put a stop to predatory towing," she said.
Murphy was quick to say that "most of the companies are very honest and reliable" but at least one Upper Keys company is not.
"It is time to update our policies," Murphy said.
The county does have the authority to regulate how much tow companies can charge to hook up, transport and store a vehicle, Murphy said.
The county currently allows tow businesses to charge a base rate of $135, $30 to $40 a day in storage fees and a $3 per mile rate. They can also charge a $75 after hours gate fee, $25 administration fee, $25 notification fee and a $75 fee for a service call, according to county regulations.
In addition to changes in the rate structure, Murphy would also like to see some requirements implemented that deal with signage on parking lots or vacant lots that spell out how much tow companies can charge, she said.
"It's time for an update," Murphy said.
Key West and Islamorada have always updated their tow policies in regards to predatory towing.
The commission will also decide whether to approve a plan that would allow live-aboard boats to not count toward the density of a redevelopment project.
Currently, the boats are treated like residential and transient units on land and are counted in the overall density and require state-issued Rate-of-Growth Ordinance (ROGO) units when a property is redeveloped.
The owners of Stock Island Marina Village are redeveloping their property on Safe Harbor and have requested the county not include live-aboard boats in the density and make them ROGO exempt, according to county records.
County planning staff are supporting the marina's request.