Planners tighten towing, wrecker rules

PARKERSBURG – The Parkersburg Municipal Planning Commission on Friday recommended changes to the city’s municipal code to better define wrecker and towing services and where they can be located.

The commission voted 11-0 to send the changes to Parkersburg City Council for its consideration. City Planner John Whitmore said the topic came up several months ago when Rocky’s Towing moved from its Camden Avenue location where a new Speedway was being constructed.

The company received permission from the Board of Zoning Appeals to operate at a different site on Camden.

Municipal code separately defines towing and wrecking services. The changes approved by the commission would put them under one classification and set 14 days as the maximum amount of time such an establishment could store a disabled vehicle, said Assistant City Attorney Rob Tebay.

“It was just basically trying to put everything into one category,” he said.

The new regulations match West Virginia Public Service Commission rules. If the 14-day time limit is exceeded, the businesses would be in violation of municipal code and PSC regulations.

If approved by council, the change would also allow wrecking and towing service as a conditional use, meaning it first requires Board of Zoning Appeals approval, in light industrial, or M-1, zones. They are also by-right uses, meaning no BZA approval is required, in heavy industrial – M-2 and M-3 – zones.

A proposal allowing wreckers and tow services as conditional uses in B-2 or general business zones came to the Municipal Planning Commission in May. But members had questions about the changes and tabled the matter.

“My major concern at that point was, I own a sub shop for example, and say hypothetically they put a tow truck next to me. That’s not going to be conducive to having food,” said planning commission member Sherry Dugan about the previous proposal. “A tow truck and junk cars need to be a little bit more sequestered.”

A new commission subcommittee reconsidered the issue and sent a new recommendation to the commission, limiting the services to industrial zones.

“It’s still pretty well contained to an industrial-type setting,” Dugan said.

In other business, the commission voted 11-0 against a petition to rezone three lots on 14th Avenue from R-3, residential, to B-2.

Multiple neighbors and nearby property owners spoke against the proposal, saying they did not want a business in the neighborhood. Although petitioner Kim Wilson said she only intended to build a structure as a real estate office and possible office space for a landscaping company without on-site material storage, some residents expressed concern about future uses under the B-2 designation, which allows numerous types of businesses.

Commission Vice President Eric Gumm said the situation underscored the need to revisit the city’s home-occupied business ordinance.

“It might be more accommodating to petitions like the one we just had,” he said.