The Mobile City Council’s public safety committee on Tuesday afternoon recommended approval of a junk car ordinance.
Councilors debated the lawfulness of city officials being allowed to step on private property to remove inoperable cars, or cars without proper registration from public view. Councilwoman Bess Rich, committee chairwoman, Councilman Joel Daves and Councilman Fred Richardson ultimately agreed with members of Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration on language that didn’t stray far from a state law sponsored during the 2018 legislative session by state Rep. Adline Clarke (D-Mobile).
According to the proposal, municipal enforcement officers would place a sticker on an inoperable vehicle that’s within public view, even if it’s on private property. By definition, an “inoperable motor vehicle” “means any motor vehicle, trailer, recreational vehicle, camper, or semi-trailer that has remained on private property and in view of the general public for 30 days or more and is inoperable in that one or more of its major mechanical components, including, but not limited to: engine, transmission, drive train, or wheels are missing or are not functional.”
If the vehicle in question meets this criteria, enforcement officers are allowed to stick a notice on the windshield alerting the vehicle owner of its impending removal. A notice would also be sent to the property owner in question.
If the vehicle is not moved within 30 days of the notice, the city can tow it away, according to the ordinance. During this time, the vehicle or property owner is allowed to request a hearing with the City Council “as a last resort” to try to remedy the situation.
Once the vehicle is taken to the impound lot, an owner has 60 days to attempt to retrieve it. If after 60 days no action is taken, the city can sell the car at auction. Any money remaining from the sale after impound expenses are paid is dispersed among the vehicle or property owners.
Jeff Carter, executive director of the city’s Bloomberg Innovation Team, said officials determined the definition of inoperable vehicles could also include those that are otherwise determined to be nuisances, but also do not have proper registration.
Exceptions in the ordinance include any vehicle yielded temporarily inoperable due to mechanic work, given that the car is not rendered inoperable for more than 30 days. Also any vehicle shielded from public view would not be declared a nuisance.
Councilman Fred Richardson asked who would tow the vehicles. City attorney Ricardo Woods said it would be a rotating list of wrecker services.
“If you’re going to send a wrecker to go get it, I say ‘amen,’” Richardson said. “Get that car.”