By DENISE GRANT
A 71-year-old Findlay man claims he was arrested by police for riding his bicycle on East Hardin Street, property now owned by Marathon Petroleum Corp.
However, police say Michael J. Phillips was charged with trespassing in a Marathon parking garage.
A pretrial hearing on a misdemeanor criminal trespass charge has been set for Phillips, of 337 Wilson St., on June 26 in Findlay Municipal Court with Judge Alan Hackenberg presiding. Phillips has pleaded not guilty.
Phillips said he didn’t realize East Hardin Street now belongs to Marathon when he was riding his bike on the street on May 10. He said he was approached by company security guards and told not to take pictures of the Marathon building.
Phillips said he then contacted city and county officials and was told the street is open to the public. Phillips returned to East Hardin Street on his bicycle on May 12, and was cited.
Phillips said there should be signs along East Hardin Street and Beech Avenue to indicate the streets are private property.
A small sign on East Hardin, near Main Street, does indicate the street is Marathon’s property.
Police reports on the Phillips incident are not open to the public as the case moves through court, but Lt. Robert Ring of the Findlay Police Department said Phillips was charged with criminal trespass for entering a Marathon parking garage.
When Phillips was initially approached by Marathon security on May 10, “Marathon security was concerned because he seemed to be taking pictures of where … security cameras are located and he was asked several times to leave the property,” Ring said.
When Phillips returned to East Hardin Street on May 12, Ring said a decision was made to charge him.
Ring said Marathon has made very few complaints about the public’s continued use of the streets.
“We’ve had this complaint, and I think just one other involving parking,” Ring said.
Portions of East Hardin Street, Beech Avenue and the “Elks Alley” were vacated by an ordinance passed by Findlay City Council in April 2014 to make way for the expansion of Marathon’s downtown campus, including construction of the $20 million Hancock Hotel, which opened early this year.
Marathon now owns East Hardin Street from Main Street to East Street, and Beech Avenue from East Sandusky to East Lincoln streets. The sidewalks along those two streets are private property now, but the public can use them, city officials say.
“We made this (street vacation) request for the safety of our employees and visitors, as we have an increased amount of pedestrian traffic between our multiple buildings and parking areas,” said Stefanie Griffith, communications manager for Marathon. “While these streets are private and part of our campus, we do not prohibit public use as long as there are no safety or security concerns.”
Griffith said the city also approved removal of parking spaces in front of the new Hancock Hotel, on the east side of South Main Street, from East Lincoln to East Hardin streets.
She said the sidewalk around the hotel remains public property, with the city granting the hotel a permit for valet parking.
Cars of hotel guests are taken to a Marathon parking garage.