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Carroll town restricts portable hoops

Taneytown officials unanimously approved last night banning portable basketball hoops and other sports equipment from the city's streets and curbs.

The measure, approved on a 5-0 vote by the Taneytown City Council, prohibits the hoops within 20 feet of the street and 15 feet of the sidewalk. Players also will have to keep off streets and sidewalks no matter how exciting the game.

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About a half-dozen residents at the meeting opposed the measure, saying they keep a close eye on their children and that traffic is light. Three residents spoke in favor, saying they fear they would drive into a child who was not paying attention because of a game.

Councilman James A. Wieprecht introduced the measure in cooperation with Taneytown Police Chief William E. Tyler, based on a police survey of residents' concerns.

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"This is all about safety. That is the issue: kids in the street and the high rate of traffic," Tyler said last night.

Tyler said he does not want to discourage children from playing but worries that the hoops could lead to tragedy for motorists, parents and players.

"You never know which way the ball's going to bounce - and kids playing go after it," he said in a recent interview. "You can replace metal, you can replace basketball hoops, but you can't replace life."

He and other town officials explained after proposing the measure last month that the town's 1983 law against blocking traffic and sidewalks didn't address the issue, in large part because what they called a no-man's land between sidewalk and curb wasn't included.

That ordinance also predated the problem of proliferating portable hoops, which have spurred complaints across the country. Communities in New Jersey, Kentucky, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania have banned the hoops in or near streets, according to news accounts. At least one town in California is considering a similar measure.

In South Carroll, the Sykesville Town Council was expected last night to discuss a proposal to prohibit the basketball hoops from public rights of way along streets and roads.

In Taneytown, Tyler said, he counted 10 portable hoops on one street and that calls to police about them have increased since June. Most were from motorists reporting close calls or concerns about children playing in or near the road. Many of the callers were neighbors of the children and did not want to file formal complaints.

Penalties under the 1983 law, which remain in effect, are a $50 fine for the first violation and $100 for each day of a second violation.

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The new ordinance gives police the power to seize the equipment for a third or subsequent violation.

The equipment will be released for a $100 fee, in addition to the other fines.

Such fines will be the responsibilities of parents or guardians of a minor offender.

In a work session last month, the mayor and the council considered exempting permanent basketball hoops that have been set up in areas covered by the ban, but they decided it was better to keep the rules simple.

The ordinance also mentions hockey, soccer, baseball, football, handball, volleyball, badminton, tennis and "other sports, recreational activities or games of any kind or nature."


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