Council votes to prohibit hoops

Some residents oppose ban on sports equipment in municipal streets


November 11, 2003|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Sykesville Town Council unanimously approved an ordinance last night banning portable basketball hoops and other outdoor sports equipment from municipal streets.

The vote occurred after a public hearing, a 30-day delay, clarification of wording in the proposal and several months of sparring with residents who maintained the town was overstepping its bounds with the ban. Officials countered that the safety of residents ultimately falls to them and they cited liability issues if they allowed street play to continue.

"There are sections of this town where street play could lead to disaster," said Mayor Jonathan S. Herman. "If people were in our shoes, they would be voting for this ban."

The ordinance takes effect Dec. 1.

At a hearing last month, several residents called for the establishment of safety zones where children could play without interruption from traffic. Council members said that they looked into a similar policy in another Maryland town but found that the municipality had not considered liability issues.

"They asked us to create safety zones," said Herman. "Those are called parks. Let's put these courts in our parks."

Sykesville officials have said that they plan to build basketball courts in several town parks, but they have not worked out the details.

"I'm not so much opposed to the ordinance but to the lack of other facilities for children and the timing, which is right before the basketball season," said Marie Clark, a resident of Sykesville's Hawk Ridge Farm subdivision. "We have lots of kids playing basketball, and this does not seem sensitive to them."

Herman said: "There will never be a convenient time. We will look seriously at creating basketball opportunities."

The mayor also said: "We'll never meet the level of satisfaction to make everybody happy. It's not so hard physically to build courts. Soon we'll have 90-plus [portable] hoops available to wheel around."

The ordinance prohibits basketball hoops in public rights of way in Sykesville, where nearly 100 of them hang over roadways. Officials say the hoops slow traffic and have caused damage to municipal vehicles.

Violators would be warned once and then could be fined $100, which would escalate to $250 for subsequent violations. The law allows for banned equipment to be impounded.

In banning the hoops, Sykesville joins communities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Kentucky, Nevada, New York, Ohio and Oregon that, according to news accounts, have enacted similar measures.

In Maryland, Taneytown apparently was the first municipality to ban hoops and other sports equipment from city streets and sidewalks. Since the ban became law three months ago, Taneytown officials have reported full compliance and no citations.

Roadways must be reserved for vehicular traffic and parking, said Sykesville Councilwoman Debby Ellis.

"These apparatuses are not legal," she said. "By allowing them, the intent is that we are setting up something illegal."

Herman said, "Our Town Council is convinced that this is something we have to do. We have given the public as good a shot as possible. We have had enough discussion. We have to take action."

Councilman Mark Rychwalski said he will immediately organize a committee to make recommendations and get public input on the best sites for basketball courts.

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