Woodstock continues prohibiting city towing contractors from parking trucks in residential areas

Council splits from Mayor Mike Turner, declines to carve out an exemption for ‘on-call’ drivers, like Crystal Lake’s code does

Commercial tow trucks still aren’t allowed to park in the driveways of most Woodstock residential neighborhoods in almost all circumstances, after a Woodstock City Council decision last week continued its prohibition it even for drivers under contract with local police.

Mayor Mike Turner cast the only vote in support of a proposal that would have let local single-axle flatbed tow truck drivers park in neighborhoods while under contract and on call with the Woodstock Police Department to respond to any incidents requiring a vehicle to be removed from a roadway.

The policy was killed in a 4-1 decision, with council member Gordie Tebo absent.

Officials considered the idea following a petition led by Zack Olsen, a local tow truck contractor whose services are used by the police department, according to city records. Council member Lisa Lohmeyer recused herself from the vote because Olsen is a client of Lohmeyer’s insurance agency, Turner said.

Olsen and Tyler Wilke, an attorney and chairman of the McHenry County Republican Party, appeared before city officials to make their case for allowing tow truck drivers who are on call with the police to park their service trucks at their homes, instead of at facilities from where they must retrieve their trucks when given notice the police need assistance.

Towing contractors with the Woodstock police have 25 minutes to respond to a call from officers and appear on scene of an incident that requires a vehicular tow, city staff said. They can be warned the first time they are not timely, and then suspended or removed from the list of towing services the city uses on subsequent occasions.

“The petitioner has expressed a valid concern with the current language. Not having easy access to his tow truck hinders his ability to provide safe and timely response during an emergency,” Woodstock Director of Building and Zoning Joe Napolitano said in a memo.

The Woodstock Police Department requested towing assistance 378 times last year, the most of any agency whose emergency dispatch services are provided by the Northeast Regional Communications Center, which works with police and fire departments throughout McHenry County, Police Chief John Lieb said.

“Those tow requests were made at all times of the day and night, in all types of weather conditions and for numerous types of scenarios. Of all of those tow requests, WPD has zero complaints in regard to the tow companies or operators,” Lieb said.

Crystal Lake’s city code prohibits large commercial vehicles from parking in neighborhoods but carves out the exact same exemption Wilke and Olsen sought in Woodstock.

All cities near Woodstock prohibit the parking of commercial vehicles in residential districts, city staff found, and Crystal Lake was the only one that has the exemption.

The Woodstock regulation prohibiting tow trucks weighing more than 12,000 pounds from parking in residential zones is “overbroad and does not make the commonsense exclusion of tow trucks that help keep the city roadways safe and clear,” according to Olsen’s petition.

Members of the Woodstock Plan Commission voted, 4-3, in July against recommending the council approve Olsen’s request. Commission members opposed to letting tow truck drivers park at home while on call with police cited the potential for the vehicles to become eyesores and negatively impact residents of neighboring properties.

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry covers local government, business, K-12 education and all other aspects of life in McHenry County, in particular in the communities of Woodstock, McHenry, Richmond, Spring Grove, Wonder Lake and Johnsburg.