By Linda Dillman
The signs may read, “No Parking—Fire Lane,” but some Canal Winchester drivers are ignoring the warning so Canal Winchester City Council is considering increasing the penalty for parking in these restricted zones.
On April 21, council heard the first of reading on a change to the city code addressing vehicles parking in fire lanes.
“We write a couple of citations a week, but we try to chase them off first,” said Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Marian DeVault.
Currently, a person cited for parking in a fire lane, such as those near stores and schools, is fined $50 and charged with a minor misdemeanor. However, if they furnish—in person—a written plea of guilty within 48 hours, the fine may be dropped to $7 without costs. If the plea is made after 48 hours, then the fine waiver jumps to $12 without costs. If the violator fails to appear within a 72 hour period, an arrest warrant could be issued.
“We found the waiver provision inserted,” said Public Works Director Matt Peoples. “We basically removed it.”
Peoples said the action brings the offense citation in line with other traffic offenses. According to Peoples, drivers occasionally took repeated advantage of the fire lane parking citation waiver.
The city wants to amend the ordinance and increase the penalties in an effort to deter further violations. The last time the regulation was reviewed was in the mid-1990s.
According to the legislation, and if approved by council, violators will be charged with a minor misdemeanor on their first offense with no reduction in fines; on the second offense within one year after the first offense, the person could be found guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. With each subsequent offense within one year after the first offense, the driver will be charged with a misdemeanor of the third degree.
A repeat violation earns the driver a trip to mayor’s court, where court fines are set by a magistrate.