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After speaking out against town’s parking program, Wrightsville Beach resident wakes up to booted car

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 2:14 PM EST
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WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - Greg Buscemi’s stance on Wrightsville Beach’s parking program and enforcement has been well documented in both the media and through lawsuits recently filed not only against the beach town, but all of the municipalities in New Hanover County.

It’s safe to say he’s no fan of the town making millions of dollars off visitors trying to access the beach, but in the past, his outspoken position has not had any consequences.

That seemingly changed after he spoke with WECT for an investigation into Pivot Parking, a new parking company facing a federal lawsuit that the town employs. Just days after the investigation aired, in which Buscemi called the actions of the town suspicious, he woke up to find his car had been fitted with an immobilization device, better known as a boot.

In Wrightsville Beach, paid parking runs from March through October, ending the first day of November, so Buscemi found it strange his car was booted midway through November.

Town Manager Tim Owens said despite the fact paid parking ends at the end of October, enforcement efforts continue.

“Paid parking ends on Nov 1; however, enforcement of non-paid parking violations and collection of unpaid citations continues year-round via Pivot Parking or the Police Department on behalf of the Town. While Pivot Parking staff were completing rounds on November 15, the enforcement system alerted staff of a vehicle that had unpaid citations of 3 or more and enforcement action was taken,” Owens said.

Buscemi, like everyone else, is permitted to park on the street for free during the off-season. Since he does not have a residential parking pass, he parks in his driveway during the summer. The night before his car was booted, however, he parked on the street to allow his roommate to park in the driveway.

He woke up the next morning with the boot on his car.

A ticket affixed to his driver’s window said the boot was due to several outstanding tickets from April and May of 2020, about 18 months prior to the immobilization.

Over the course of three days in the spring of 2020, Buscemi racked up three different tickets: two for parking without a pass and the other for being parked outside of the lines. Buscemi said neither alleged violations was true, as he was parked within the lines and had a parking pass hanging from his mirror.

When asked about the outstanding tickets, Buscemi said he was aware that he had been ticketed, but he was under the impression the tickets had been invalidated after a conversation with a police officer about them.

“A police officer actually came up to the house to see whose car it was, I think they were concerned about towing it if it was not supposed to be towed and that was the precise situation. I came out, showed him the tag in the window, he saw that it was there and he said, don’t worry about it, we’re good then,” Buscemi said.

Despite that, it appears that all three of those tickets are still active. But even with outstanding tickets, he claims the town, or whoever decided to boot his car, did so illegally, pointing to the town’s ordinance as evidence.

“The Town Manager or his or her designee may immobilize by the use of wheel locks and tow any vehicle which is illegally parked in violation of this chapter and for which there are three or more outstanding, unpaid and overdue parking tickets for a period of more than 72 hours. For the purpose of determining whether an illegally parked vehicle has had issued against it three or more outstanding, unpaid and overdue parking tickets for a period of more than 72 hours, it shall be sufficient if the license plate number of the illegally parked vehicle and the license plate number of the vehicle having received the tickets are the same,” the town’s ordinance reads.

While Buscemi did technically have three tickets, he says he was parked legally on the street meaning he should not have been booted.

“If you look at the specific town ordinances themselves they say that they can only immobilize a vehicle if two conditions are met. The first one has to be that it has to be illegally parked, the second one — there has to be three outstanding parking tickets that are not paid. In this case, I told them the plain language of the ordinance says that if it’s not illegally parked then I’m not subject to that immobilization,” Buscemi said.

Apparently, he was correct.

The boot was removed from his car and the ticket was dismissed as well, but he still was without a vehicle for three days. Buscemi says it does not feel like this was a random event.

“I can’t imagine that they were going around reading license plates for everyone else on the island when parking enforcement ended two weeks ago. It seems like they were kind of waiting for an opportunity to see my car, its a very distinguishable car, the license plate says WB NC. It’s very easy to see it when you drive by, especially when they are very familiar with me,” he said.

“It feels like you’re targeted and singled out when something like that happens,” he continued. “I believe that was the case I don’t think they were going around looking for anyone else to enforce these things on and put a boot on.”

Owens said that was not what happened.

“When Mr. Buscemi’s vehicle was booted, staff had no knowledge that the vehicle was registered to Mr. Buscemi. The enforcement system does not provide registered vehicle owner information, it only alerts when a recognized plate has three or more outstanding citations,” he said.

As for the fact that Lanier Parking issued the tickets and Pivot Parking is the new management company, Owens said it doesn’t matter who wrote the tickets.

“It is standard practice and required by the Town for the current parking management vendor to collect citations that are considered unpaid from previous years, even if citations were issued by another parking management vendor. All parking citations are written on behalf of the Town regardless of the vendor or if done in-house,” he said.

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