The Terrell City Council is expected to soon take up revisions to a handful of ordinances that could impact everything from parking at home to panhandling and loitering to riding horses in the park.
City Manager Mike Sims told councilmembers last week that city ordinances sometimes “get a little muddled up, and when they get muddled up that’s when we end up with customer service problems because we cannot communicate clearly what the rules are…”
Regarding the proposed changes to four ordinances, Sims said, “Basically, all of these are cleanup efforts.”
One such effort entails people parking at their homes, specifically on crushed rock. The proposed change would ban the use of crushed rock in all new parking areas. Properties with existing crushed rock parking would have to conform to rules governing proximity to paved areas and culverts, tire pathways, containment, depth and the presence in the rock of material such as vegetation, sand and mud.
Sims assured the council that the city does not intend to target residential parking violations during holidays and special occasions. The city is interested only in properties that consistently violate standards, and owners of those properties will be notified with a letter before enforcement action commences, Sims noted.
The city’s administration also is taking aim at what Sims termed “aggressive solicitation.” The idea is to make it unlawful for people to badger others for money. Revision specifically target areas where people might have ready amounts of cash, such as near banks, check cashing businesses or ATMs.
“People feel very threatened if they just went to the ATM machine … you need some physical separation there,” said Sims.
Councilman Charles Whitaker said he recently watched four or five people go from car to car asking for money at the intersection of U.S. 80, FM 148 and Hwy. 205. Such soliciting would be unlawful under the proposed revisions. Posing as a military veteran, a current service member or a handicapped person as a ruse for soliciting money also would be outlawed. “Those are things that have been problematic in other locations,” Sims said.
Another possible ordinance revision pertains to riding horses in city parks. As it stands, riding horses in Terrell’s parks is not permitted unless the city’s parks director grants special permission. In essence, the proposed change would turn things around. Riding a horse at a park would be permitted unless the parks director says no.
“We think that’s a better way to manage it,” said Sims, who added that horse riders at parks “would be presumed innocent instead of presumed guilty.” He added that horses would not be allowed on athletic fields, and riders would be responsible for cleaning up manure.
Those who do get permission to ride at city parks have been doing so responsibly, according to Sims.
The horse riding provision sparked a lively round of council discussion.
Councilman Tim Royse said he grew up around large animals “and they leave imprints, and imprints present tripping hazards and they’re unsightly.”
He later remarked: “If you have people riding horses and kids throwing Frisbees around in the same area, I just see a problem. I’m still forming an opinion, it’s still marinating.”
In some parks, like King’s Creek, it might make sense to allow horse riding. But in others, like Stallings, it would not, Royse argued.
Councilwoman Mayrani Velazquez said public safety needs to be paramount when it comes to horses in public spaces. She agreed with Whitaker that developing designated trails might be a better route to go.
The matter will go before the Parks and Recreation Board before coming back for council action, Sims noted.
“I’m anxious to hear what the parks board has to say, but for the record I’m pro horse; I’m not anti-horse,” Mayor Rick Carmona said light-heartedly.
The council also addressed the issue of loitering and the places and circumstances where it will not be permitted. Loitering would not be tolerated within 1,000 feet of a church, a school, a city park, or a place that sells alcohol, intoxicants or drug paraphernalia.
People suspected of loitering would first be warned by police to move on, and if they refuse they could be cited.
Sims said he believes the revisions would apply to several bridges underneath which people now congregate.
Councilman Grady Simpson said he hopes a revised ordinance on loitering will be enforced as strictly in his District 2 as throughout the rest of the city.