SIDNEY — The city’s “panhandling” ordinance was repealed and revisions to Sidney’s downtown Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) boundary and policies were adopted during Sidney City Council’s Monday meeting.
Law Director Jeffrey L. Amick told council recently the “panhandling” ordinance, which prohibits the act, has come under scrutiny. He found that upon further review, many, if not all, Ohio communities which enacted similar legislation, either repealed or no longer enforce the law. He recommended the city of Sidney follow the example.
Council member Steve Wagner said he was “struggling” to support repealing the ordinance and voted against it.
“I believe citizens need to be protected to a degree because I have witnessed several instances of panhandling, and I’ve seen where people were intimidated, so to speak. Is staff, the city manager, are we confident that we will come up with something that will fly according to the law?” Wagner said.
Amick told Wagner city staff is confident they have options that can be used if the situation arises. He said people can make a complaint if they felt intimidated.
Wagner noted the reason he voted for and council passed the panhandling ordinance in 2013 was because people were often very reluctant to come forward and press charges. Amick responded saying if they keep the law on the books they would be “met with a very serious challenge,” which staff would like to avoid.
Council member Joe Ratermann asked Amick if it was true the panhandling ordinance was unconstitutional. Amick confirmed his question, saying “that’s the whole issue.” Ratermann noted that whether they come up with something later or immediately, the ordinance is unconstitutional.
Council member Ed Hamaker asked the law director if people would be allowed to panhandle in a public place. Amick said yes, as long as no one complains. The management of an establishment can complain and tell the panhandlers to leave. He said they don’t have to allow it to happen and can have the individual(s) trespassed.
Amick also said city staff members are looking at other “creative” ideas to deal with these type of situations. After he meets with the city manager and the police chief he told council he will present their ideas at a future meeting.
The ordinance passed with a 5 to 1 vote. Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst was absent and was excused by council Monday.
In other business, City Council adopted a resolution that revises the downtown (CRA) property abatement program’s boundaries and policy to incentivize housing redevelopment and reinvestment in the downtown area.
Community Development Director Barbara Dulworth explained the CRA boundary changes remove the area west of the CSX railroad, adds the Walnut Avenue historic district area and extends the boundaries down to the Big Four Bridge between the CSX railroad and the Great Miami River. Visit https://bit.ly/2z1ZdGj (Page 79 of the agenda) to see the revised boundary area in the downtown.
The revised policy includes the following:
• Abatements of 100 percent of the increased property taxes for 15 years for the remodeling or new construction of one and two-family dwellings;
• Abatements up to 100 percent of the increased property taxes for 15 years for the remodeling or new construction of existing commercial (including residential with more than two units) and industrial structures. The term and percentage of which will be negotiated with the Housing Council and will be approved by Sidney City Council on a case-by-case basis in advance of remodeling.
The revised policy also allows council to increase the abatement term another 10 years for certified historic structures in specific instances.
The program’s revisions, Dulworth said, should streamline and simplify the incentive, as well as make it available and useful, to more residential properties. She said that since residential property abatements will be handled administratively, the owner planning the investment is assured of the abatement without delays.
Dulworth said along with programs, such as the land bank and the vacant property registration, this incentive can help stop deterioration and stabilize neighborhoods and preserve and protect the property values of existing properties.
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