The Dalles City Council is allowing a family to keep a portable basketball hoop for their children in the public right-of-way on West 22nd Street.
“We have four children and they are very active and we want to help them find ways to get the energy out,” said Jeremiah Porter, who has one neighbor strongly opposed to having the hoop near their property.
Councilors Linda Miller and Bill Dick cast the dissenting votes Monday on continuation of an encroachment permit issued to the Porters in mid-October by Nolan Young, city manager. Mayor Steve Lawrence, who can only vote to break a tie, also spoke out against straying from the Traffic Safety Commission’s recommendation to void the permit.
Voting in favor of the permit at the Dec. 9 meeting were Councilors Dan Spatz, Tim McGlothlin and Carolyn Wood.
“I went to look at the site and I don’t have a problem with the placement of the hoop, it made sense to put it there,” said Wood. “My children played in the street — basketball and football — for years.”
McGlothlin said there had to be a balance
between keeping children safe and allowing them to exercise. He said bikes and sleds were also used by children in city streets and he believed overly regulating activities could cause more harm than good.
“We can find safety issues in most everything so you just have to assess the risk,” he said.
Spatz said “common sense” had to be applied to rulemaking and he had taught his children to ride bikes in the street. He supported granting the permit but said the Porters needed to make sure their children were not “causing irritation” for neighbors during play.
Neighbor Tom Tramontina, and his attorney, James Habberstad, appealed to the council Monday to follow the lead of the safety committee. In November the advisory body decided that children should not be playing in the street as a general rule and recommended the council revoke the Porter’s permit.
“At the risk of being the ‘Grinch that Stole Christmas,’ we’re here to ask that you uphold your safety committee’s recommendation,” said Habberstad.
Tramontina said the steep grade of the street and cars parked along the curbs could impair the vision of motorists passing near the hoop.
“Children will be out of the line of sight,” he said.
He said hoops had been mounted in two driveways near the Porter property and at the playground at Colonel Wright Elementary School was located nearby.
“It’s not that we’re against kids and we’re not against basketball,” said Habberstad. “It is just that we want things to be safe.”
McGlothlin asked Tramontina what the traffic flow was on the street that is located off a dead-end roadway and his reply was that it was “light.” Miller then asked if any children had been hurt in the vicinity and Tramontina replied “Not that I’m aware of.”
Because their 522 W. 22nd St. property was on slope, the Porters set up the hoop on the opposite side of the street and just a little to the southeast. That placed the hoop at the edge of the roadway in back of the Tramontina lot, where the ground was much more level.
Tom and his wife, Carol Tramontina, objected to having the hoop in that location and asked the city to have it removed. Their protest continued after the Porters relocated the equipment next to the 2115 Garrison lot owned by Greg and Lori Burkart.
The Burkart’s did not have an issue with the hoop being sited at the edge of their property and notified the city manager, of their support via a letter dated Sept. 3.
“We recognize that the street on the back of our property is one of the few level areas in the cul-de-sac and, as teachers, we understand the importance of outdoor play in a child’s physical and social-emotional development,” they wrote.
Young issued the permit Oct 15 after the Porters fulfilled his request to have a signed petition of support from other neighbors. All five families with property in the vicinity of the hoop put signatures on that document.
In an Oct. 22 letter to the Tramontina’s, Young said his decision could be appealed to the city council if they were still in agreement with the siting of the hoop.
Habberstad sent Young a letter Oct. 31 asking for a copy of the permit. He also wanted a copy of the written policy and procedures for granting the permit, as well as a copy of written criteria and other documentation factors into the decision to issue the permit. He requested an accounting of labor hours and the dollar cost incurred by the city that was related to issuance of the permit, or fees collected from that action.
Young replied in a Nov. 7 letter that there was no set criteria for his decision, that permits were issued on a case-by-case basis. He said requests for these permits were analyzed for “reasonable standards of safety.” He said the city does not track the time spent handling these types of issues so any documentation would be “at best a guess.” And there was no fee for issuance of an encroachment permit.
The city manager then suggested the Tramontinas bring the issue before the Traffic Safety Commission as the next step in their opposition since the council was likely to have them go through that channel prior to addressing the issue.
On Nov. 20, the Tramontinas gained support from the commission, which agreed with Habberstad that having a hoop in the right of way next to the street posed a serious safety concern.
Dick urged Porter and Tramontina at the Dec. 9 meeting to find a way to compromise on issues so they did not create disharmony in the neighborhood.