Signs were posted on Dec. 3 at the entrance to Elizabeth's Safeway warning it is illegal to park cars for sale in the shopping center's parking lot.
"This Shopping Center is not Zoned to Allow the Sale of Cars," the signs read. "Cars for Sale Will Be Towed At the Owners Expense."
Tom House, Safeway's store manager in Elizabeth, said he posted the signs because "we've had an ongoing problem with people parking in our lot trying to sell their cars."
"We try to be accommodating but we're running a business here," House added. "We're not a used car lot. Our parking lot is for customers."
House said that at one time last summer "we had about 20 vehicles for sale parked in our lot."
Clearly, not everyone has read the new signs: On Dec. 4, a pickup truck with a "For Sale" sign was parked in the Safeway lot.
"We're not trying to give anybody a hard time," said House. "And we haven't towed anybody's car. We just don't want this to turn into a more serious problem. When you use the word 'tow,' you do tend to get people's attention."
House called the problem "a zoning issue" and said it has been going on "for a long time. When we see a car with a sign and call the owner, they usually say, 'Why can't I do it? Everybody else does.'"
House said at the previous company where he worked, "I actually had somebody from the state come by and tell me cars for sale can't be parked in our parking lot."
"We're a long way from towing people," House said. "Right now, when we see a car for sale in the lot, we take one of our signs and tape it over the For Sale sign and call the car's owner."
If that doesn't result in the car being moved off the Safeway parking lot, House said he refers the matter to the property manager.
At present, none of the other businesses in the Safeway Shopping Center have posted similar warning signs.
"Right now, it's not a big deal," House said. "Usually, when I've contacted most people, they understand and say 'I'll get the car out of there later today or tomorrow. I tell them 'no problem.'"
"We're just trying to be reasonable and keep this from becoming a bigger issue," House said.
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