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Town considers plan to enforce basketball laws

August 11, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG - The Smithsburg Town Council likely will opt to begin a public education plan, and if necessary, stricter enforcement of existing laws to deal with increased complaints of youth basketball games on residential streets.

At least one council member said the campaign would help the town avoid legal red tape and would continue to encourage the time-honored tradition of children playing some street ball.

Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers said the council has decided not to draft an ordinance dealing with problems caused by street basketball games. Instead, the council is mulling implementing an education effort that could include running a letter in "The Trumpet," the town newsletter.

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Myers said the council is expected to vote at its Sept. 2 meeting on whether to approve running an open letter, drafted by Councilman James LaFemina, in an upcoming issue of "The Trumpet."

Myers also said the council does not believe an ordinance establishing new standards for basketball nets on local roads is necessary because existing laws in the Annotated Code of Maryland deal with issues of traffic obstruction.

"Our lawyer feels, if there are problem areas, the law that's on the record suffices in taking care of these problems," Myers said. "You can become a town of nothing but ordinance for this, ordinance for that. After awhile, everybody in the town would be fined for something they did wrong."

Myers said the council would discuss the letter further at a work session later this month, before the September vote.

Myers said the LaFemina-penned letter was distributed to council members for their review at the Aug. 5 meeting.

The town has been receiving complaints in recent months from motorists who could not pass by groups of youngsters during their loosely organized games and from vehicle owners whose cars were hit by stray balls.

However, police say the problem is not widespread.

LaFemina said the majority of the complaints seem to come from the Whispering Hill neighborhood, which is several miles from Lions Club Park, one of the few areas in the town with public basketball courts.

LaFemina said he hopes to avoid the "extreme actions" of some other towns that have banned street basketball after problems were reported. For the most part, the council believes such activities actually are good for the town.

"We don't want to discourage anyone from playing safely in front of their own house," LaFemina said. "We don't want a generation of kids stuck in front of the television or video monitor. We want the kids outside and playing because I think it strengthens the community."

The main points of the letter are letting parents know to educate their children on moving out of the way of traffic, for parents to be mindful of the children's games and for motorists to slow down when approaching groups of ball-players, according to LaFemina.

"It was basically to let people know there is an issue, and we are aware of the issue," LaFemina said.

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