The Canal Winchester Times

Council ready to review city parking regulations

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The Walmart lot on Winchester Boulevard was designed with convenience in mind: acres of parking space and easy access to Gender Road, Waterloo Street and U.S. Route 33.

But the convenience is supposed to be for Walmart shoppers, not semi-truck drivers who want to park their rigs for extended periods or for people to abandon unwanted vehicles there.

City officials, store representatives and Fairfield County sheriff's deputies say both those things are happening.

That -- and concerns about improperly parked vehicles in the city itself -- are why Canal Winchester City Council members are taking steps to beef up current laws dealing with overnight and long-term parking. Council's safety committee is expected to take up the issue at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20, at Town Hall, 10 N. High St.

Councilman Joe Abbott has been leading the charge for change.

He said an average of seven to nine semi-trucks are parked in the Walmart lot every day.

"The semi-trucks are a daily issue and a hindrance to our local residents," he said. "The parking lot is being used more for overnight/vehicle storage and therefore is becoming a nuisance to our community.

"The current ordinance only prohibits these issues between 1 and 5 a.m. and therefore it is very difficult for law enforcement and Walmart to monitor."

Sheriff's deputies told council members in December that there has been a rise in the number of people parking vehicles at Walmart that are stripped of their license plates and left in the lot until either the company or the city has them towed.

Abbott said he has talked with Walmart managers, who have told him they would support changes implemented by the city.

"With this being an entranceway to our city, many of our local residents do not feel a storage lot is appropriate," he said. "It is imperative to resolve this issue before it gets any further out of hand. City council will continue to work in conjunction with Walmart until we find a resolution for this problem."

Canal Winchester resident Teresa Dodson told council members at their final meeting of 2013 in December that the city's laws on enforcing code violations need to have more "teeth."

She said a large boat had been parked in a neighbor's driveway in what she believes is a violation of city code, despite calls to the sheriff's office and appeals to the Canal Winchester Planning and Zoning Commission.

Dodson said she felt bad about the situation, because the boat belongs to her elderly neighbor's son, who doesn't live in the area.

Development Director Lucas Haire said the initial problem with the complaints to the planning and zoning commission was the fact that a resident is given three days to move a vehicle (or in this case boat) before he or she can be fined; if the vehicle is moved during that time but then is returned, the process starts all over again.

"We sent certified letters, and (Planning and Zoning Administrator) Chad Flowers went to the home to talk with the resident," he said.

Haire said in December the city had received about a dozen complaints regarding the boat, which hadn't been moved, so the next step was to issue a summons into mayor's court.

"Unfortunately," he said, "it is the resident who gets summoned to court, not her son, who owns the boat."

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