CW approves strict sex offender legislation

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Propelled to protect the vulnerability of children, Canal Winchester Village Council took the final step in passing a sweeping sexual predator ordinance designed to limit where convicted offenders can reside within village boundaries.

The new law, approved by council at its Sept. 4 meeting, restricts people convicted of, or who have plead guilty to a sexually-oriented offense against a child, from establishing or occupying a residence within 1,500 feet of any public or private school premise, licensed day care facility, pre-school,  private or public park or playground, library, or public swimming pool.

Violation of the ordinance could result in injunctive action. However, the village does not have to prove irreparable harm in order to file the injunction, which applies to sexually oriented offenses not registration exempt and individuals classified as sexual predators.

There are a number of different sexually oriented offender registrations and registration is dependent on the seriousness of the offense.

Originally presented with the state’s 1,000-foot restriction, attorney Mike Close previously said, although the 1,500 foot limit was possible, the amount enters an area untested in the courts. He said he could say with some certainty 1,000 feet would stand if tested in a court case, but didn’t know if 1,500 feet would be upheld if contested. The 1,500 restriction covers a vast majority of the corporation limits.

When asked about limiting an offender’s workplace to the same distance as their residency, on Aug. 21 Close told the council when it comes to enforcement, the burden is placed on the employer and enforcement becomes a nightmare. He also said he did not read the ordinance as prohibiting an offender from stopping by a friend’s house if they live inside a restricted zone, as long as residency is not involved.

Logo hubbub

Adoption of a controversial logo branding the village with a stylized image of the Queen of the Line Depot died in a tie after a heated discussion between council members. Councilwoman Leah Turner had asked that a vote on the resolution be held until she returned, but the request died in a tie vote and council members faced an immediate decision.

"I don’t know why this has created so much furor in the community," said Council President John Bender. "The idea was to get a marketing tool for the village. It does not mean that we would take down the signs. I believe how important it is to honor the railroad, but I’ll still vote for it. It is not such a huge issue in Winchester, but it has come to that."

Councilman Steve Donahue, who voted against Turner’s request and the resolution, felt the $4,500 contract to design the image would have been better spent on more pressing technology issues.

Councilwoman Bobbie Mershon commented the whole issue of branding is to have a common image and the idea would be defeated by its arbitrary use. She said the logo before council didn’t bring a buy-in of residents and also voted against both presentations.

Councilman Victor Paini, voting for the logo along with Bender and Bruce Jarvis, said council was essentially discussing a marketing brand and he was unsure if they needed to approve the image. He thought the idea was brought to council as a courtesy before "everyone shredded it to pieces" and confusion began when it was called a logo, although he said it was a marketing brand, which can change frequently.

"It’s shocking to me that the two biggest issues so far for 2007 are golf carts and the logo," commented Paini.

Winery

A lengthy public hearing was held Sept. 4 on an appeal by Damon Pfeifer of denial of a conditional use permit for a winery in a residential, R-3 zoning area on Winchester Pike. Pfeifer asked for approval to use an existing pole barn for the operation after losing investors for a separate facility.

Although a liquor issue for the winery was approved by voters, the Planning and Zoning Commission denied the conditional use request on Aug. 13. Planning and Zoning Administrator Allan Neimayer recommended the request be denied because the lot-1.2 acres-is less than the 10 acres required by law and the operation does not meet the criteria for customary agricultural use since grapes not grown on the property would be used in the manufacturing process.

Pfeifer’s proposed use includes wine equipment and sales, addition of a 10×40 foot wine cellar, and construction of restrooms. In the application, it was noted there was no change plan for traffic, parking, or noise and traffic would be minimal; it would not compete with noise from U.S. 33, loud speakers used in car lots, and cemetery traffic, which the application contends would generate more vehicles than the winery would draw.

Planning and Zoning Commission member Mike Vasko called the request a classic example of spot zoning, although he said several members were supportive of the winery if it was located in the proper zoning location instead of in a residential area.

Pfeifer responded by saying a majority of Ohio wineries are located in residential zoning districts and the state has already issued a permit for manufacturing.

"Last November we won 75 percent of the vote," reported Pfeifer. "It sounds like the community wants it otherwise we would have lost the vote. There are a couple of residents on the street that don’t want a winery."

One Winchester Pike resident attending the meeting, Tim Roberts, supported the idea of a winery, but many more voiced opposition, including Sally Werle, James Brooks, and Glen Baught, who owns two homes on an adjoining lot and cited the safety of children living in the vicinity as a factor. He said he did not want to see a commercial business placed in the middle of a residential area.

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