Hilliard Northwest News

Hilliard City Council

Fire-lane ordinance remains in committee

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Hilliard City Councilman Albert Iosue remains opposed to the provision of a proposed ordinance that would allow police to cite private-property owners when their customers or employees block fire lanes.

The ordinance amending city code restrictions on parking, standing or obstructing fire lanes remained stalled Oct. 21 in City Council's Public Safety and Legal Affairs Committee.

City Council on Sept. 23 referred the legislation back to the committee after Iosue raised concerns about it.

Iosue said he supports the objectives of the proposed ordinance, but he cannot support the provisions that would allow police to cite the owner of a property when an offender blocks a fire lane or hand out stricter penalties against offenders who have prior traffic violations in the past 12 months.

"I support citing people who block fire lanes, even towing them," Iosue said. "But there are a few things I have trouble with here."

Iosue said it would be difficult to prove whether a property owner encouraged or was even aware customers or employees blocked a fire lane.

Deputy Police Chief Bobby Fisher said the provision would give police the ability to hold property owners responsible in "severe cases where there are repeated problems." As an example, he said, police could have evidence demonstrating a property owner facilitated a violation of the statute or willfully ignored the law.

Councilman Nathan Painter, a practicing attorney, concurred with Fisher.

"At the end of the day, I think we can trust our police and prosecutors to use their discretion," Painter said.

Iosue remained opposed, but the measure had the support of committee members Joe Erb and Chairman Jim Ashenhurst, who successfully moved for the ordinance to be taken out of committee and returned to City Council for consideration.

But when Ashenhurst learned that returning it to City Council would result in a vote -- it would have received a third and final reading at the Oct. 21 City Council meeting -- he and Erb rescinded their motions and the ordinance remained in committee.

City Council President Brett Sciotto agreed with the decision.

"I asked this to come back to committee so we could discuss it and get unanimous support. ... We didn't accomplish anything, so it should remain in committee," Sciotto said.

The next scheduled meeting of the Public Safety and Legal Affairs Committee is Oct. 28.

The ordinance was proposed in August to provide police with better means to enforce clearance of fire lanes in commercial areas.

The ordinance would make sitting in an idling car, called "standing," an equal offense to parking an unattended vehicle, though police would have discretion in each circumstance.

The ordinance was introduced as part of a collaborative effort with Hilliard City Schools.

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