- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Montgomery County officials, prompted by complaints from business owners and residents, is set to approve a bill that would make it illegal to answer nature’s call in public.

Montgomery County is the only area jurisdiction that does not have a law prohibiting public urination, but the council’s Public Safety Committee yesterday unanimously recommended a bill to address the issue.

Council President Tom Perez and County Executive Douglas M. Duncan sponsored Bill 1805 after a Wheaton public safety audit completed in November labeled public urination as a top health concern in the downtown area.

Business owners and local officials said the problem has become notably worse with redevelopment in the Wheaton area, where restaurants and bars have opened downtown.

Residents who reported public exposure and foul odors discovered that the county had never enacted a law or even considered a bill against public urination.

“No one really understood why they didn’t have the law already, and a lot of people presumed that it was already in place,” said Gayle Driver, an assistant state’s attorney in Wheaton. “You hear little bits from people saying why are people urinating, and you have to explain that there is no law banning it. If we can get legislation to make it illegal, we can do something.”

Natalie Cantor, director of the Mid-County Regional Services Center, said the new restaurants and bars in Wheaton have attracted some customers who are not shy about urinating on sidewalks, against walls and in parking lots.

At Marchone’s Inc. Italian Specialties restaurant on Triangle Lane, owner Filippo Leo said he is fed up with people who treat his neighborhood like a barnyard.

“We’ve got a beautiful window and from our window we can see most of the parking lot. Many times we have witnessed people who are intoxicated go next to a car and do their own things,” Mr. Leo said.

Until police have the authority to arrest or cite the offenders, there is nothing Mr. Leo can do.

The proposal also would affect downtown Silver Spring, Barnesville, Brookeville, the city of Takoma Park, Chevy Chase Village, the town of Chevy Chase, Chevy Chase View, Chevy Chase Sector 3, Chevy Chase Sector 5, the village of North Chevy Chase and Glen Echo, and the village of Martin’s Additions.

Gaithersburg and the county parks system have their own bans on public urination.

The bill, introduced in May, will be presented to the County Council for a vote in September when it reconvenes. The Public Safety Committee has recommended the proposal as an expedited bill, which means it could go into effect the day it is approved rather than 90 days after the vote.

Council member Phil Andrews, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, expects that the bill will pass unanimously.

The bill proposes that anyone caught violating the law would be cited for a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $100, incarceration or both. Police may charge violators for a civil offense and may ban repeat offenders.

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