There’s little the city of CW can do about panhandlers

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer
Despite complaints, when it comes to panhandlers in Canal Winchester, the city’s hands are tied in shooing them off of public street corners and rights-of-way since their activity falls under the U.S. Constitution’s precepts of free speech.

Canal Winchester City Councilman Richard Moore said a resident sent an email saying she was concerned about a significant increase in panhandling, especially in front of the PNC bank building, Chipotle, and a car wash.

“It looks to be a group that comes and leaves together,” said Moore during a May 20 council work session.

Councilwoman Jill Amos said she saw panhandlers on four different street corners the previous weekend.

Law Director Thaddeus Boggs said his office looked into the issue a number of times over the course of several years and said little can be done to get panhandlers off of streets and parking lots.

“The courts have said—pretty uniformly—panhandling, in and of itself, is a protected First Amendment activity as speech,” said Boggs. “There are really not ways to regulate panhandling as such. But if they are in a place in the roadway that is a danger to themselves or others (they can be told to move) or if they are on private property and have been told they are not allowed to be there, it becomes an issue of trespass.”

However, Boggs said if a panhandler is in a public place like a right-of-way, sidewalk, median, or grassy area, there is nothing the sheriff’s office is empowered to do with respect to removing them.

“You do not need a permit to panhandle,” said Boggs, who said the city of Dublin, in an effort to curb the activity, installed signs at corners attractive to panhandlers saying, ‘There is a Better Way to Give.’”

Boggs suggested the city could discuss the situation with the sheriff’s office and property owners to see what level of dissuasion with which they might be comfortable.

“It seems to be the same group of people,” Amos said. “I offered them a list of services, but they only wanted cash.

Other CW news
•The city of Canal Winchester is moving forward with a $3.4 million contract with Complete General Construction for Phase 6 of Gender Road improvements.

The project enhances safety and improves pedestrian mobility on Gender Road through the U.S. Route 33 interchange. The anticipated start date is July and the project continues into 2025.

Council approved waiver of second and third readings in order to meet project contract provisions and the Ohio Department of Public Transportation’s timeline.

•Canal Winchester is adding another Community Reinvestment Area to its inventory, bringing the total to three post-1994 and two pre-1994 CRAs, with a resolution establishing the Violet Point CRA.

Development Director Lucas Haire said the area is generally bounded by Diley Road to the west, Kings Crossing and the Canal Winchester corporation limits to the north, just east of the city limits, and Basil Western Road to the south.

“This is the first step in creating a new community reinvestment area,” said Haire. “It’s the majority of the property that was recently rezoned to limited manufacturing and includes some parcels south of Kings Crossing Boulevard. There are four single family homes located within the 291 acres of the CRA. Two of them have homes that were constructed prior to 1900. There are two old farmhouses there, so that meets the (state) criteria of homes being historically significant (due to age).”

The resolution allows the city to create a CRA permitting real estate tax exemptions for commercial and residential properties on a case-by-case basis.

•Council also approved a resolution naming the new three-season shelter house in McGill Park the Peggy Wood Pavilion.

“The Wood Foundation donated $500,000 to the city for the development of McGill Park a number of years ago,” said City Administrator Matt Peoples. “Now that we’re opening the shelter house, we would like to recognize the Wood Foundation.”

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