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May 22, 2014

Peabody mulls ban on street-side basketball hoops

Sports equipment left in roads called nuisance, safety hazard

PEABODY — City councilors are considering making it illegal for residents to drag their basketball hoops and hockey nets out into the street and leave them there, along with all sorts of other sports equipment.

Councilor at-large Dave Gravel says he doesn’t have a problem with kids shooting hoops in the street; he did the same thing growing up. The problem is when portable play structures are parked in the street, weighted down with sandbags, bricks and stone and left there year-round, creating impromptu neighborhood parks across the city.

Gravel told fellow councilors about one case last month as he requested consideration of drafting a city ordinance to deal with the problem. A constituent told him basketball hoops were rolled out on his street and left on opposite ends so the neighbors could play whenever they wanted. The balls ended up in people’s yards and bounced off cars.

“It wasn’t meant to be a basketball court; it was meant to be a street and a sidewalk,” Gravel told councilors. “Basically, it was becoming a playground.”

In other cases, residents have put up with dings and scratches on cars, even broken windows and other property damage, not to mention the hassles created for drivers, Gravel said.

“[The public way] is not our private property to take advantage of and use it the way we want ... or to abuse it the way we want,” he said. “I would guarantee you that 98.5 percent of the time, nobody will complain, but if no ordinance exists, nothing can be done.”

Deputy police Chief Martin Cohan agreed that it’s a “tough issue.” He said the department usually gets involved at the request of the light plant when someone refuses to detach a basketball hoop from a utility pole. And when neighbors do complain about street hockey or basketball games, officers only intervene if it’s an unreasonable hour or poses a safety hazard.

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