MECHANICSBURG – Village Council on Monday continued discussions over the village’s junk vehicle ordinance after another resident expressed concerns over how the law is being enforced.
Currently, the village junk vehicle ordinance prohibits the storage of unlicensed and inoperable vehicles outside an enclosed structure for longer than 72 hours after receiving notification from the Mechanicsburg Police Department, which was given the authority to enforce the ordinance by council on March 6.
Violators who fail to address the issue can be issued a separate offense for every 10 days that pass in which the vehicle is in violation. To date, the MPD has issued approximately 40 violation letters.
The ordinance states violators can be cited with a minor misdemeanor on first offense. If found to be in violation for a second time within a year, the citation becomes a fourth degree misdemeanor. More than two violations within a year results in a third degree misdemeanor.
During council’s April 3 meeting, village resident Paul Foss questioned why he was targeted for having an unlicensed utility trailer in his yard that he keeps in working order and feels isn’t an eyesore. He also took offense to law enforcement entering his property to take pictures and check for unlicensed vehicles.
Village Solicitor Joe Jimenez said unlicensed trailers are in violation of the ordinance, but that council can amend the ordinance is it wishes.
On Monday, Foss again expressed his concerns to council as did village resident Trish Hull, upset with the police going on her property to check for junk vehicles without telling anyone or leaving a note.
“All I know is I heard the police were on my property lifting up traps,” she said. “They came on my property … I feel violated.”
Hull added that as a longtime resident and law-abiding citizen, she felt she deserved a little “respect” from law enforcement officials. Like Foss, she questioned whether the MPD’s search of her property without permission was done legally.
“I think it was done wrong,” she said. “I think there is a right way to do it, just have a little respect for the residents.”
Jimenez addressed the legality surrounding the property searches by stating if there is an expectation of privacy such as one’s residence, then yes, permission or a warrant is needed. In this case, an open yard doesn’t have an expectation of privacy and is fair game.
“Technically, they don’t need a warrant to go onto your private land if it’s open,” he said.
Council member Todd Class addressed Foss’ concerns over being cited for his unlicensed, but working trailer, by stating his desire to bring forward an amendment to the junk vehicle ordinance that specifically targets junk trailers, not unlicensed trailers in good condition that are stored properly on a property.
“I’d like to see an amendment put to it that if a trailer is loaded with trash or junk, then that’s a problem,” he said.
Jimenez, Zoning Officer Dusty Hurst and council member Jodi Compton all stated if an amendment is brought forward, it needs to be done cautiously to avoid defeating the purpose of the junk vehicle ordinance.
“I do think that we do have to be careful about changing too much to where we are taking steps back in what the intent of this ordinance was,” Compton said.
Hurst cautioned eliminating trailers from the ordinance, as the village has had issues with large empty trailers left sitting on commercial properties.
Considering all the information tossed around during the meeting, Class, Jimenez and council member Charles Foss agreed to meet on their own time to discuss whether to proceed with the drafting of an amendment to the junk vehicle ordinance.
Council was informed by Administrator April Huggins-Davis that a bid opening held on April 12 for the village’s upcoming Water Distribution System Improvements Phase 1 Project yielded one bid in the amount of $733,780 from Underground Utilities Inc., Monroeville.
Huggins-Davis said the bid was considerably lower than the engineer’s estimate of $818,480.
To help pay for the project, which will replace aging 6- and 8-inch water mains along West Main Street and High Street with 12-inch mains to help address water concerns at the Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools’ complex on High Street, the village has been awarded a $278,283 grant from Ohio Public Works Commission.
To fund the remaining balance of $455,497, council passed a resolution allowing Mayor Greg Kimball to seek a loan from the Ohio Water Development Authority. The village, Huggins-Davis said, already owes OWDA $106,000 for a planning loan it took out years ago to get the project rolling.
“We are hoping to get it started and finished before school starts (this fall),” she said. “We want the project to disrupt the school as (little) as possible.”
In other business:
•Council voted to amend a resolution passed on April 3 requesting the Champaign County Board of Revision to turn over to the village properties at 2 and 4 N. Main St.
Huggins-Davis said after the resolution was passed, it was discovered the properties in question contain a third parcel, which is located behind 2 and 4 N. Main St. – side-by-side vacant buildings at the corner of North Main and East Sandusky streets. The third parcel is listed with an East Sandusky address.
Following the discovery of the third parcel, council voted in favor of trying to acquire all three parcels from the Board of Revision before they are placed for bid at an auditor’s sale.
The plan, Huggins-Davis said, is for the village to try to acquire the parcels, which failed to sale via sheriff sales, during the Board of Revision’s May 9 meeting. If granted ownership, the village would work with the Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP) to get the properties back into productive use.
•Village resident James Herron asked council if it would consider naming Sandusky Street in honor of the late Arthur Violet, a Mechanicsburg resident who was a prisoner of war for nearly three years during the Korean War.
While discussing the request, council said if the village were to go through with the dedication, the street would only reference Violet in a memorial fashion and would legally remain Sandusky Street.
Kimball agreed to discuss the issue with the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-508-2304 or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.