A proposed code amendment would essentially take the city of Canal Winchester out of the equation when it comes to enforcing parking regulations in the Walmart lot.
Canal Winchester City Council heard the first reading of an ordinance Feb. 3 detailing the code changes. If approved, it would mean any language designating the hours considered to be overnight parking in commercial lots would be removed from city code.
It also would strip away any specifics from city code regarding the reasons why a vehicle could park there overnight and would remove from the code a list of actions the city would be required to take to enforce the parking regulations.
"How this is written, we'll have the store put up actual rules and then have them make calls to their authorized towing agent, but there won't be a specified fine," Law Director Jennifer Croghan said.
"The officers would be able to call the towing company in agreement with the store, but we'll have to get a separate agreement with each store."
Councilman Joe Abbott has led discussions about overnight parking issues, particularly related to the Walmart near Gender Road and West Waterloo Street, since last fall.
Abbott said Feb. 3 he was concerned that the proposed code changes would be a step backward and would take away city authority.
"I'm fine with calling (a towing agent), but Walmart is the only one already on board. Getting an agreement with every other business -- that's going to take some legwork," Abbott said. "So basically, this does nothing until those are set up."
Development Director Lucas Haire said that currently, the Meijer, Home Depot and Kroger properties, run by developer Casto, have tow-away signs listing a towing agent. This is similar to what Walmart and its adjacent businesses would need, he said.
"Casto aggressively enforces it at the Home Depot and Kroger and others themselves," Haire said of parking regulations at the businesses. "Similarly, the Walmart in Westerville has a private security company that calls the towing company."
According to Croghan, most complaints are made about commercial vehicles, in particular, the noise from semi-trucks that sit idling in the Walmart parking lot.
She said these drivers often are just passing through and never show up to mayor's court or pay their fines.
"If you're dealing with out-of-town truckers, the chance of them coming back to mayor's court is minimal," Croghan said. "If there's a number up on the sign, then our officers can call the towing company directly."
Mayor Michael Ebert added that leaving it up to the property owner to place the signs and enforce the rules doesn't stop other people from calling, too.
"If I see a sign that says 'no parking,' I might think about that, but if I see a sign that says 'tow away zone,' I will definitely think about that," Ebert said. "It's up to the property owner to regulate the parking, but if the sign's up, then anyone can call."