[HISTORY: Adopted by the Common Council of the City of Watertown as § 12.05 of the former City Code; amended in its entirety by Ord. No. 97-71. Subsequent amendments noted where applicable.]
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- ABANDONED MOTOR VEHICLE
- Any motor vehicle which is required by the laws of the State of Wisconsin to have attached thereto a valid, unexpired registration plate and which:
- A. Is left unattended in its original parked location on private property for a period of 48 hours or longer without the consent of the owner, lessee or occupant of such property, or their legally authorized agent; or[Amended by Ord. No. 01-14]
- B. Is left unattended in its original parked location on public property, including any portion of a highway, street, municipal parking lot or public right-of-way within the limits of the City of Watertown, for a period of 72 hours or longer; or[Amended by Ord. No. 01-14]
- C. Is left unattended on a street, highway or public right-of-way within the limits of the City of Watertown in such a manner or under such conditions as to interfere with the free movement of vehicular traffic or proper street maintenance.
- JUNKED MOTOR VEHICLE
- Any motor vehicle which is left unattended in its original
parked location on public property for a period of 48 hours or longer
or is left unattended in its original parked location on private property
for a period of 15 days or longer and which:[Amended by Ord. No. 06-08]
- MOTOR VEHICLE
- Any self-propelled land vehicle which can be used for towing or transporting people or materials, including, but not limited to, automobiles, trucks, buses, motor homes, motorized campers, motorcycles or tractors. "Motor vehicle" does not include snowmobiles, dune buggies, "stock" or racing cars, or off-road vehicles.
- MOTOR VEHICLE ACCESSORIES
- Any equipment, part or parts of any motor vehicle.
- ORIGINAL PARKED LOCATION
- Includes the location at which the motor vehicle was parked when it was placarded in accordance with § 497-6B as well as an area within a three-hundred-foot radius of that location.[Added by Ord. No. 01-14]
- Any individual, firm, partnership, corporation or association.
- POLICE IMPOUND FACILITY
- Any building, enclosure or place designated by the Mayor, Chief of Police or by ordinance or resolution of the Common Council for the storage of impounded motor vehicles by the City of Watertown, including privately owned garages, other privately owned locations designated as a police impound facility or a publicly owned impound facility.
- PRIVATE PROPERTY
- Any other real estate within the City of Watertown other than that described under the definition of "public property" below.
- PUBLIC PROPERTY
- Any real estate owned by the federal or state government, City of Watertown, Watertown Unified School District or other political subdivision.
It shall be unlawful for any person to display, store, keep, park or leave any junked motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories upon any public or private property within the City of Watertown.
It shall be unlawful for any person who is the owner, lessee or legally authorized agent in possession or control of any private property within the City of Watertown to cause or permit to be stored any junked motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories upon said private property.
It shall be unlawful for any person, after notification has been given to remove any junked motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories from any private property, to move the same to any other private property upon which such storage is not permitted or onto any public highway or other public property for purposes of storage.
The storage of junked motor vehicles on private property or public property within the City of Watertown is declared to be a public nuisance, which may be abated or removed and penalties imposed as provided in this chapter.
It shall be unlawful for any person to abandon any motor vehicle upon any public property, street, highway, alley or other public way in the City of Watertown.
It shall be unlawful for any person to abandon a motor vehicle on the private property of another person without the consent of such other person. Any person on whose property a motor vehicle is abandoned may file a complaint with the Police Department. Thereafter, the motor vehicle may be removed by the owner, lessee or legally authorized agent from such property at said person's expense or it shall be removed and impounded by the Police Department pursuant to the terms of this chapter.
The abandonment of motor vehicles on private or public property within the City of Watertown is declared to be a public nuisance which may be abated or removed and penalties imposed as provided in this chapter.
Any law enforcement officer or the Building Inspector of the City of Watertown, upon routine inspection or upon receipt of a complaint, may investigate a suspected junked motor vehicle, abandoned motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories and may gain access to private property to conduct such investigation in order to record the make, model, style and identification numbers of any such motor vehicle. In the event access to any private property is denied by the owner, lessee or occupant thereof, such law enforcement officer or Building Inspector shall obtain a special inspection warrant, pursuant to the terms of § 66.0119, Wis. Stats., except in cases of emergency.
This chapter shall not apply to any motor vehicle or any motor vehicle accessories under the following circumstances:
Any motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories stored within an enclosed building.
Any automobile service stations, automotive repair facilities, automotive body shops, or tire, battery and accessories sales stores, or other similar business enterprises, provided that such businesses are in a properly zoned area for such business enterprise, and provided further that such motor vehicles or motor vehicle accessories are shielded from public view by adequate landscaping or solid fencing.
Any licensed motor vehicle dealers or licensed junkyards or other storage facilities in a properly zoned area for such business enterprise, whether or not such motor vehicles or motor vehicle accessories are shielded from the public view. This exception shall not apply to auto repair facilities, auto body shops, automobile service stations or tire, battery and accessory sales stores.
[Amended 2-7-2017 by Ord. No. 17-3]
Any law enforcement officer, community service officer or the Building Inspector of the City of Watertown who has reasonable grounds to believe that a motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories are junked or abandoned under the terms of this chapter shall require such motor vehicle/accessories to be removed or cause the same to be removed and placed in a police impound facility.
A motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories shall not be presumed abandoned or junked until a bona fide effort is made by a law enforcement officer, community service officer or the Building Inspector to notify the owner or operator of the status of the motor vehicle/accessories. Such notification shall include a bright orange, self-adhesive vehicle courtesy notice which shall be affixed to the motor vehicle/accessories. Such vehicle courtesy notice shall indicate the specific ordinance being violated and the date and time action must be taken by the owner or operator to prevent impoundment of the vehicle/accessories.
Whenever any law enforcement officer, community service officer or the Building Inspector has reasonable grounds to believe that a motor vehicle, attended or unattended, has been left standing or parked upon any portion of a municipal parking lot, highway, street or right-of-way in the City of Watertown in such a manner as to constitute an obstruction to traffic or proper street maintenance, such law enforcement officer, community service officer or the Building Inspector is authorized to cause the motor vehicle to be removed and placed in a police impound facility so as to eliminate such obstruction without notice to the owner or operator thereof.
The law enforcement officer, community service officer or Building Inspector who caused removal of the motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories shall immediately inform the Chief of Police or his designee of the impoundment and last confirmed location of the motor vehicle/accessories.
[Amended by Ord. No. 99-15]
Any motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories which are deemed abandoned or junked by the Chief of Police or his designee and not reclaimed under Subsection D below, or disposed of under Subsection B below, shall be retained in storage for a minimum period of 30 days after certified mail notice, as provided in Subsection C below, has been sent to the registered owner and lienholders of record to permit reclamation of the motor vehicle/accessories.
If the Chief of Police or his designee determines that the towing costs and storage charges for the minimum period of impoundment would exceed the value of the motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories, the motor vehicle/accessories may be junked or sold after the expiration of the impoundment period, upon determination by the Chief of Police or his designee that the vehicle or accessories are not wanted for evidence or for any other reason, provided that all motor vehicles in excess of 19 model years of age shall be sold or disposed of only by public auction sale or sealed bid, in accordance with Subsection E of this section.
[Amended by Ord. No. 99-37; Ord. No. 00-20]
Within 10 days after the impoundment of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories, pursuant to the provisions of this chapter, and at least 30 days prior to the date of sale of the impounded vehicle/accessories, the Chief of Police or his designee shall serve a parking citation by certified mail to the registered owner of record at the address of said person indicated in the Department of Transportation registration files for the violation of either § 497-2 or 497-3, having a forfeiture in the amount equal to the bond forfeiture amount set by the Watertown Municipal Court, and shall give written notice by certified mail to the registered owner of record at the address of said person indicated in the Department of Transportation registration files and secured lienholders of record, if known, advising such parties of the following:
The year, make, model and vehicle identification number of the impounded vehicle/accessories;
The place where the impounded vehicle/accessories are being held;
The right of the registered owner or any lienholder of record to reclaim the impounded vehicle/accessories pursuant to Subsection D below;
That the failure of the registered owner or lienholders to exercise their rights to reclaim the impounded vehicle/accessories under this section shall be deemed a waiver of all right, title and interest in the impounded vehicle/accessories and shall be deemed a consent to the sale of the impounded vehicle/accessories; and
The registered owner, or other person who can prove he or she is entitled to possession of the impounded motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories, upon presentation of the vehicle title, identification or other satisfactory evidence, may reclaim the impounded vehicle/accessories within 30 days of the date of impoundment by presenting himself or herself at the Watertown Police Department and by paying the bond forfeiture amount set by the Watertown Municipal Court, plus the actual cost of towing and a fee as set by the Common Council and provided under separate fee schedule per day for storage. The Chief of Police or his designee shall, at his or her direction, have the discretion to waive or reduce the applicable storage fee based upon the following criteria:
[Amended by Ord. No. 05-24]
The financial circumstances of the vehicle owner that may have rendered him unable to make payment of the fees set forth herein.
An unintentional delay in the receipt of the written notice by the vehicle owner.
The voluntary forfeiture of the vehicle to the Watertown Police Department by the vehicle owner.
Any person who is the registered owner of any impounded vehicle/accessories or a lienholder of record thereon may contest the impoundment, proposed disposition of the impounded motor vehicle/accessories or costs of impoundment imposed under Subsection D above by appearing in the Watertown Municipal Court at the time and on the date indicated in the certified letter described in Subsection C above to contest the facts and circumstances of such impoundment, proposed distribution of the impounded vehicle/accessories, or costs imposed as a result of the impoundment. Any such person shall have the right to receive the vehicle back by posting a bond equal to the costs outlined in Subsection D above prior to release of the impounded vehicle/accessories. No such impounded vehicle/accessories shall be disposed of under this section or costs imposed under this section until disposition of the proceeding to contest any of these matters.
Any impounded motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories retained in storage and not reclaimed by the registered owner or lienholders of record may be sold by public auction with notice as provided below, or may be sold by public sale calling for the receipt of sealed bids with notice as provided below, pursuant to § 342.40(3)(c), Wis. Stats.
The notice of sale for any sale held pursuant to Subsection F above shall be a public notice posted at three locations within the City of Watertown: the Watertown Police Department, the bulletin board at the office of the City of Watertown Clerk/Treasurer, and the bulletin board at the City of Watertown Public Library. Such notice shall include the description of the vehicle, name and last known address of the registered owner and lienholders of record, if known, as well as the information contained in the notice sent to the registered owner and lienholders of record pursuant to Subsection C above and shall be posted at least 10 days before the date of sale contained in the notice.
At such sale, the highest bid received for any such impounded motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories shall be accepted. If no bid is received, the Chief of Police or his designee shall dispose of the impounded vehicle/accessories at a private sale or shall junk the impounded vehicle/accessories. Any interested person may offer bids on each impounded vehicle/accessories to be sold.
The sale of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories under the provisions of this section shall forever bar all prior claims thereto and interests therein, and the Chief of Police or his designee shall supply the purchaser of the purchased vehicle/accessories with a completed form enabling the purchaser to obtain a regular certificate of title for the vehicle.
The purchaser of any motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories at the sale conducted pursuant to Subsection F above shall have 10 days to remove the purchased vehicle/accessories from the police impound facility, upon the payment of the purchase price as bid, together with a storage fee as set by the Common Council and provided under separate fee schedule per day for each day the purchased vehicle/accessories remain in the police impound facility after the second business day subsequent to the sale date. Ten days after the sale date, the purchaser shall forfeit all right, title and interest in the purchased vehicle/accessories and the same shall be deemed abandoned and may be sold again.
Any listing of vehicles to be sold pursuant to this section shall be made available by the Chief of Police or his designee to any interested person or organization who or which makes a written request therefor, for a fee not to exceed the actual, necessary and direct cost of producing a copy.
Within five days after the direct sale or disposal of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories, as provided in this section, the Chief of Police or his designee shall advise the Wisconsin Department of Transportation of such sale or disposal on a form provided by the Department.
Any person who shall violate any provision of this chapter shall be subject to a penalty as provided in § 1-4 of this Code. Each violation and each day on which a violation of any provision of this chapter occurs or continues shall constitute a separate offense. This chapter shall not preclude the use of any other remedy available to the City to prevent, abate or remove junked motor vehicles, abandoned motor vehicles, or motor vehicle accessories, as allowed by law.
The owner of any abandoned or junked motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories, except a stolen vehicle, is responsible for the abandonment and all costs of impounding and disposing of the motor vehicle or accessories. Any costs recovered from the sale of the impounded vehicle/accessories shall be offset against the costs of impounding, storing and disposing of the motor vehicle or accessories. Any costs not previously paid shall be recovered as a cost of the action and imposed as an additional cost of the plaintiff in any forfeiture penalty imposed pursuant to Subsection A above.
[Amended by Ord. No. 02-09]
The owner of any private property within the City of Watertown upon which a junked motor vehicle or motor vehicle accessories have been stored and have been removed pursuant to this chapter shall be responsible for a response service fee payable to the City of Watertown in the amount of $150.
Whenever the City of Watertown Police Department determines a response service fee is owed pursuant to this section, an invoice for the response service fee shall be sent to the owner of private property upon which a junked vehicle or junked vehicle accessories were located at the owner's last known address, along with a notice indicating that the response service fee is a special charge, listing the services which form the basis for the special charge; the date the payment is due; the right of the private property owner to a hearing before the Chief of Police into the reasonableness of the response service fee; the fact that the request for a hearing must be made before the date payment is due; and a warning that any unpaid response service fee will be assessed against the private property owner's real estate tax roll as a special charge, pursuant to § 66.0627, Wis. Stats., and Chapter 76, Article III, of the City's Code.
All charges for response service fees are due and payable to the City of Watertown within 30 days of mailing of the notice required in Subsection A above, except that if a hearing is requested in a timely manner the assessment is due within 10 days after an adverse decision is rendered at such a hearing.