Whitehall News

City asks -- but can't force -- people to clear sidewalks

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Motorists aren't the only people finding it hard to navigate Whitehall roads this winter.

Extended subzero temperatures have prevented the thawing of snow-packed streets, but sidewalks also remained impassable in many parts of the city earlier this week, according to city officials.

City Councilman Wes Kantor said he used his snow blower last week to clear about a dozen driveways and sidewalks in his neighborhood.

"We have a lot of senior citizens and people who aren't able to clear sidewalks and some who also might not be able to afford to pay someone to do it," Kantor said.

Kantor said he is concerned for the safety of children, especially elementary school-age children, who are forced to walk in the roadway because of impassable sidewalks.

The topic was discussed at City Council's committee meetings Tuesday, Feb. 11. The question at hand is whether homeowners, responsible for the maintenance and clearance of sidewalks, should be compelled to keep sidewalks clear.

Council President Jim Graham said, according to a legal opinion from City Attorney Mike Shannon, the city cannot issue citations to homeowners for failure to clear sidewalks.

"We certainly encourage our residents, especially those living on streets leading to schools, to clear sidewalks if possible," Graham said.

A warmup this week should help; temperatures are expected to rise into the high 50s this weekend.

In other action, council members were expected to approve the rezoning of the former Swimland site at South Hamilton and Etna roads at their meeting Tuesday, Feb. 18, to allow for the construction of senior housing.

Companion legislation currently before council approves the purchase of the 4.8-acre parcel at 540 S. Hamilton Road for $300,000 from a religious organization.

Homeport, a nonprofit organization that provides housing for low-income senior citizens, is expected to purchase the parcel from the city for $300,000, said Development Director Zach Woodruff.

Homeport expects to obtain the federal tax credits necessary to build the company's second community in Whitehall, said George Tabit, vice president of real estate development for Homeport.

The campus would be called Hamilton Village and follow the completed construction of Eastway Village on East Broad Street, Tabit said.

Legislation scheduled for introduction at the Feb. 18 council meeting included ordinances to amend the city's codified ordinances concerning the carrying of concealed weapons in public areas within the city limits, as well as a measure to amend the city's schedule of fees for various permits.

Both pieces of legislation were introduced at council's Feb. 11 committee meetings.

Council is considering legislation necessary to align with Ohio Revised Code concerning concealed and open-carry permits for firearms.

Any private-property owner can prohibit the carrying of firearms, but people with permits are allowed to carry guns on private property; the ordinance amends Whitehall codes to align with Ohio law in that capacity, Kantor said.

Service Director Ray Ogden introduced legislation Feb. 11 amending the fees for numerous permits in the city.

For instance, a garage permit, for structures 660 square feet and smaller, would increase from $125 to $150, and a garage permit for those larger than 660 square feet would increase from $200 to $225.

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