Abandon vehicles in county lots will soon be towed

Editors note: Duncan Wilson, Town of Friday Harbor Administrator, said the town is not contracted with Washington State Ferries to monitor C-Lot, as was previously stated by County Councilmember Bill Watson. According to Wilson, the town received a number of complaints about abandon cars in that lot. The town contacted WSF, which then had the offending cars removed.

Abandoned automobiles on county-owned property prompted action from the county council.

San Juan County Councilmembers Bill Watson, Rick Hughes and Jamie Stephens passed an ordinance May 7 that effectively rescinded parking regulations in the county-owned lots within the town. Those lots include: behind the courthouse at the top of Second Street, in front of the Annex Building on Rhone Street and public works on 915 Spring St.

“It is really more of a book-keeping thing,” Watson said. “There was an issue with maybe one or two cars, and we needed to give ourselves the authority to dispose of them if we needed to.”

Resolution 85-2003, passed in 2003, gave the town jurisdiction to adopt parking regulations over county-owned lots located within town limits.

Ordinance 3-19 repeals that resolution and authorizes San Juan County Manager Mike Thomas to establish new rules.

Thomas explained to the councilmen at the hearing that the primary motivation behind the ordinance is to get rid of derelict cars that may be parked in those areas.

“It’s much more expedient if we take care of it,” Thomas told the councilmen at the hearing.

While new rules are being created, no parking regulations are in effect on those lots. When Hughes asked Thomas if he was concerned about the interim, Thomas responded that he was not, and facilities manager Greg Sawyer added that the current regulations are not effective, and the interim should not take long.

Watson told the Journal later that it wasn’t that the town was failing, but that county staff uses those parking areas the most, and are the first to spot random vehicles. County staff believed it would be quicker if they handled the problem themselves.

“The ferries had the same problem with Lot C,” Watson added, explaining that people were parking their cars, occasionally living in them, for months at a time. The state has since contracted with the town to monitor the lot, located off A Street. Watson noted that these derelict cars are intertwined with the rising population and homelessness on the island, as well as the high cost of getting rid of a vehicle.

New regulations will be centered around marking cars parked in the county lots and towing them if necessary.

“We are basically authorizing ourselves to pay the towing,” Watson said.