Get Gephardt helps Utahn who says confusing signs led to towing woes

VINEYARD – James Oborn thought he followed the posted rules when he parked on the street outside his girlfriend’s house in Vineyard last March.

The parking enforcement sign stated vehicles without a community parking permit will be towed after 1:00 a.m. Oborn did not have a permit, and so he watched the clock like a hawk.

“And it’s 12:45 a.m. Go outside. My car is gone,” Oborn said.

A timestamped photo taken by the tow company shows his Honda got towed at 12:36 a.m. – 24 minutes early.

“I just think it was a wrongful tow,” he said.

Oborn fought back. He pointed out to the tow company that he was following the posted rules. But they didn’t budge. If he wanted his car back, he would have to fork over $300.

“It’s pretty devastating, honestly,” Oborn said.

He said he was told by the tow company that he shouldn’t have been parked there at all.

“They told me that it was actually not a time parking violation,” he said. “It was just a street parking violation which makes no sense.”

Here’s the thing – the sign Oborn saw said ‘Authorized permit parking only 1 a.m. to 5 p.m.’ But walk around to the other side of the same signpost, and another sign states you must have a permit to park there, no matter what time.

One signpost, two different messages.

Confusing? Oborn thought so. “I don’t know which sign goes to what,” he said.

Out $300 for a violation he doesn’t believe he committed, Oborn called the KSL Investigators.

“I didn’t know where else to go so I decided to contact you and see what you could do,” he said.

We began by reaching out to the city of Vineyard. They in turn sent us a map marking parking enforcement for that community, the Springs at Waters Edge.

 The City of Vineyard sent the KSL Investigators this map showing the streets highlighted in blue require permits for street parking. Streets in red have parking enforcement between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. for non-permit holders. The two signs marking these areas were on the same signpost. (City of Vineyard)

Turns out, the pole sits at a corner shared by two different property owners. The section north of the sign belongs to The Springs. The section south of the signpost is controlled by the city.

The sign Oborn read – saying parking enforcement begins at 1 a.m. – did not refer to the Springs community where he parked, but for the city’s portion of the road.

The law about confusing signs

Confusing to be sure, which may be against state law.

When it comes to towing, Utah law is long and quite detailed. It specifically says if property owners are going to use towing to enforce parking, they are required to have “proper signage” with “clear instructions for parking at the property.”

“Signs have to clear, and they have to be consistent,” John Gleason, spokesperson for the Utah Department of Transportation, the agency that enforces the rule, said.

In reviewing Oborn’s situation, Gleason said UDOT agrees with his assertion that the tow was wrong.

“In this case, if you’re seeing one message that says it’s illegal to park from this time to this time, the other side would have to be the same,” Gleason explained. “You can’t assume somebody is going to walk around on the other side of a pole and read both signs.”

Gleason said if Oborn files a complaint, UDOT will investigate and might help him get his money back as they do for other drivers.

In fact, public records show that, so far this year, 458 Utahns have complained about bad tows. In 70 of those cases, UDOT agreed with drivers and intervened on their behalf.

“I’m a college student. I don’t have a ton of money and it sets me back $300,” said Oborn. “That’s quite substantial, to me at least.”

A clear resolution

For him, though, filing a complaint with UDOT won’t be necessary.

The KSL Investigators reached out to the property manager of The Springs at Waters Edge neighborhood. They responded, saying, “We see how this would be confusing for the tow company to install signs for two different clients on the same post.”

Oborn received a check reimbursing him for the tow he insisted should never have happened.

Also, the next person to park in the community shouldn’t have the same issue. The community manager told us they are changing their parking rules to match the city’s rules for the adjacent street.

Going forward, no one should get slapped with a time violation and towed before 1 a.m.


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