April 07, 2020

City mulls portable hoops ordinance

BANGOR – Three months after it was brought to the forefront by a Little City resident, the issue of portable basketball hoops in city rights-of-way returned Monday night, drawing about a dozen people on both sides of the issue to City Hall for a City Council workshop.

But unlike the July meeting at which the issue first was debated, and drew a mostly pro-hoops crowd, Monday’s workshop drew several who thought children should not be playing in the streets at all.

Code Enforcement Officer Dan Wellington said there are about 200 portable hoops in Bangor, almost all of them in residential neighborhoods.

Portable hoops are not permitted on city streets. Although they are placed in spots that violate a city ordinance last reviewed in 1967, even city officials admit that the rule largely has been ignored.

It states: “No person shall play baseball or any ball with a bat or engage in ball playing of any kind or throw any stone, brick, bats, clubs or snowballs or shoot any arrows or use any sling or other device to throw missiles or fly any kite in any street, lane or public square within the built-up portion of Bangor.”

As City Manager Edward Barrett saw it, the city’s options are to:

. Revise the existing ordinance and enforce it.

. Adopt a new ordinance allowing sports in city rights-of-way, but only on local residential streets. Play would be limited to 8 a.m.-9 p.m. April 1 to Oct. 31. Youngsters would have to yield to traffic, and the portable hoops would be restricted from within 30 feet of intersections.

City police could prohibit play where activity results in property damage, violations of the rules or disorderly conduct citations two or more times in a 30-day period, and where the activity poses a threat to public health, safety and welfare.

. Repeal the existing ordinance.

Barrett said despite the safety hazard posed by playing in the street, children were going to play there anyway. That being the case, it made sense to provide safety measures.

Lois Knopf of Grant Street is disabled, but hopes someday to return to her private practice in the health field. Her husband is starting a home-based engineering consulting business.

“I believe that the draft ordinance is not appropriate,” she said. “We really don’t want to hear the thump, thump, thump of basketball playing. I think I have rights as a disabled person and as a property taxpayer not to have undue noise, especially if I am using my home office.”

Vicki Karlsson, who raised the issue in July, came to the workshop with a long list of U.S. cities that banned hoops in city rights-of-way for safety reasons and research on the adverse health effects of noise.

She said she would prefer not to allow children to play in the streets at all, both for safety reasons and due to the noise.

“It is impossible to sit and read a book. It is impossible to watch a movie. It is impossible for me to relax in my own home because of the noise that is created,” Karlsson said.

Robert Rosebush of Briarwood Drive said there are six hoops in his neighborhood of about 30 households, making it difficult for his wife, who works nights, to sleep.

Rosebush said when he asks them to stop, “They just get mad and ignore it. They won’t even get out of the way for cars. I think it’s a safety hazard more than anything.”

In contrast, former Councilor Christopher Popper called the proposed ordinance “a fair compromise” that would allow for play, but with safety measures.

Resident Andrew Matlins agreed: “I don’t think we should tar and feather all the kids because a few are stupid.”

After more than two hours of discussion, all seven of the councilors present were leaning toward the new ordinance, though they thought it needed tweaking. They also wanted more information before making a decision.

The matter is slated to go before the council’s government operations committee in late November or early December.

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