The Canal Winchester Times

City Council seeks to close fire lane parking loophole

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Canal Winchester officials hope to close a parking loophole they say has been abused by repeat offenders, costing time and money in ineffective enforcement.

The city's current ordinance governing fire lane parking violations includes a waiver provision whereby anyone who parks in a fire lane has up to 48 hours to plead guilty and pay a $7 fine, or, after 48 hours, they can submit a guilty plea waiver and pay $12 with no further action.

The problem with the waiver, according to city Public Works Director Matt Peoples, is that it doesn't escalate for repeat offenders, and it is out of line with the normal fines for violators who are either unaware of the waiver or who contest the violation but are ultimately found guilty.

Currently, fire lane parking violators who do not seek the waiver and are found guilty are charged with a minor misdemeanor and a $50 fine. If that person has a second violation within a year, he or she can be charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor and associated fines assigned by the court.

Beyond the second offense, every further offense within a year is a third-degree misdemeanor and carries associated fines.

Councilwoman Bobbie Mershon had requested that Peoples complete a review of other communities' fines associated with this type of violation prior to submitting a change to the current ordinance.

"I've provided a revised ordinance from the last meeting when we figured out that there was this waiver provision, and the $50 fine is in line with other communities," Peoples said at council's April 21 meeting. "In the new ordinance, we've removed all of the waiver provisions, so the first offense will be a minor misdemeanor parking ticket of $50 and then a second offense in a year requires a court appearance as a fourth-degree misdemeanor."

Council members also discussed legislation April 21 to ban parking on the south side of Kings Crossing to ensure proper clearance for fire and other emergency equipment.

Law Director Gene Hollins clarified for council that fire lanes are only associated with commercial buildings and are related to the building code. He said the any change to the parking on Kings Crossing would ultimately just be posted as a standard no-parking zone.

Ordinances for both changes are scheduled for a final vote at the May 19 city council meeting.

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