By Andrea Cordle
For months, a Grove City woman, who also works in the city, has noticed a man sitting in his vehicle outside her office. He is there all hours of the day.
This resident, who wishes to remain unnamed, was concerned about this individual and the safety of the children that come to her office. She called police, but at the time, there was nothing they could do. He was not breaking the law.
Now, that is not the case.
At the Aug. 21 meeting, Grove City Council approved an ordinance that would prohibit individuals who dwell in their vehicle from parking on city streets.
According to the ordinance, there are public health, safety and quality of life concerns that are posed by those who live in their vehicles, parked on public, city streets.
“People living in a vehicle on a public street is not safe,” said Stephen Smith, law director. “We need to get them off the streets.”
Smith said this issue was brought to the city’s attention by the local woman and other concerned residents.
“In this situation, we have a man living in his vehicle on a public road. He is a registered sex offender.”
In a letter to city leaders, the concerned resident writes, “We are very worried that he will eventually do something that we would all deeply regret, and ultimately, be held accountable for.”
According to Smith, this individual has registered the street, where he lives in his vehicle, as his permanent residence.
“This is not a zoning code issue,” said Smith. “It’s a nuisance code issue.”
With the passage of this ordinance, anyone dwelling in an automobile shall be deemed a public nuisance, which is a misdemeanor. Each day a violation exists shall be a separate offense.
“We have a hole in our law that allows this to happen,” said Grove City Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage. “This helps us in our parks and in our public right-of-way.”
Councilman Steve Robinette asked if this new law would pertain to semi-truck drivers who pull off the road to get some sleep.
Smith said semi drivers do not typically park on public streets; they park in private lots.
“Semi drivers come close to living in their vehicles, but I cannot think where they have ever parked on a Grove City street,” said Smith.
This legislation does nothing about those who live in their vehicles parking in private lots.
“That issue is up to the property owner,” said the law director.
Councilman Ted Berry said he was concerned about individuals who fall on hard times and feel they have no other option than to live in their vehicle.
“I do worry because there are homeless people in this community,” said Berry.
Smith said part of the new law has an educational element. When police respond to a situation of a person living in their vehicle parked on a public street, that officer could provide that person options, so they do not have to stay in their car.
The law goes into effect Sept. 20.
In other news, due to the Labor Day holiday, the next Grove City council meeting will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.