Hoop dreams: Fox Hall resident hopes city allows him to keep basketball goal

DOVER — All Joe Maier IV wanted to do was put a basketball goal in front of his house in the middle of a cul-de-sac at 18 Baltusrol Court in Fox Hall.

Why? So that his eight-year-old stepson could experience the joys of playing outside.

He never expected to end up in front of the City of Dover’s Construction and Property Maintenance Board of Appeals.

However, that’s what happened, as Mr. Maier was found by Code Enforcement Officer Velvet Brown to be in violation of two city ordinances. He appeared before the Appeals Board in the City Hall Conference Room on Tuesday afternoon.

It turned out that Mr. Maier didn’t lose his basketball goal, but isn’t exactly sure if he’ll be able to keep it, either: The Board of Appeals voted unanimously to “defer the matter and allow 60 days for the appropriate lawful authority in the city to see if they wish to designate that cul-de-sac as permissible to be a play area.”

The most serious violation of Dover Code that Mr. Maier committed was Section 70-4, which addresses throwing or kicking objects and playing games in streets and public places.

The ordinance states, “It shall be unlawful for any person to throw, kick or project, in any manner whatsoever, any stone, ball or other object in the city streets and public places, or to play or practice athletic games, quoits, pitching pennies and like games on the city streets and public places, unless those places are specifically designated for those purposes by lawful authority.”

Due diligence

Mr. Maier insisted he did his due diligence when he decided to put the basketball hoop up for his stepson.

“It started when we were looking at pictures of me playing basketball as a kid, and I have an eight-year-old stepson, and he said, ‘I want to play basketball,’” Mr. Maier said. “I said, ‘Well, if you can save up enough money for half of it, I’ll fork over the other half.’

“We mixed the concrete and put the basketball hoop up. We live in the back of a cul-de-sac where there’s really no activity whatsoever.”

To his surprise, when he returned from vacation earlier this summer he found a violation notice in his mail box that was dated June 15 from Ms. Brown.

“As I do any other basketball goal that would force children or whoever’s playing to play in a public street or public right-of-way, notice was sent to the property owner to remove the basketball goal or at least put it in a position to where they’re not forced to play in the street,” she said.

Ms. Brown sent a second notice on July 6, which stated, “Please have the basketball goal removed from the Right of Way by July 20, 2018, or a summons will be issued. Be advised that fines may run as high as One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) per day for as long as the violation exists. Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.”

Ms. Brown explained that she was just enforcing city code, and said, “On a personal level, I thought, ‘Oh no,’ this is sad (of Mr. Maier’s situation).

Mr. Maier said he was stunned to receive the violation notices and said if he had to bring the basketball goal down it would cost him $500 and would break his stepson’s heart.

“I just came home from vacation one day checking in the mail and it said that I had a violation,” he said. “I came to the city office and I checked as I normally would and there were no pamphlets displayed or anything that would have anything to do with putting up basketball goals, or anything with right-of-way or traffic enforcement, or whatever the case may be.

“I proceeded to call Miss Utility before I put the basketball hoop up and had them come out in the spring and dug a little hole.”

Big can of worms?

Dover City Councilman Fred Neil, who serves on the Board of Appeals, said if the city allows Mr. Maier to keep his basketball goal up facing the street it could be opening a big can of worms.

“My concern is that the law is there for a reason because even though (Mr. Maier) might be in a position where there’s not a lot of traffic, if anyone else would put (a basketball hoop) in they’d say, ‘Well, you gave it to him,’ then I think we could have a problem,” Councilman Neil said.

“The ordinance is there for a reason and should anything happen to the kids playing there and gets hit, it’s (going to cost) more than $500 (referring to cost of the basketball goal).”

Mr. Maier explained that there is nowhere else on his property that the basketball goal could go, saying he has gas and water lines on one side of his driveway and a line of trees that separates his yard from his neighbors on the other.

Several members of the city’s Appeals Board said they understood Mr. Maier’s frustration and believed Section 70-4 of the Dover Code could be rewritten to exclude cul-de-sacs and dead-end streets when it comes to playing in streets.

Not the first time

City Councilman David Anderson, chairman of the Board of Appeals, said he has seen the issue arise many times before.

“This isn’t the first time this issue’s come up,” Councilman Anderson said. “I remember I was part of the Parks and Recreation’s Community Enhancement Committee 16 years ago and, unfortunately, this was an issue then.

“I think it’s a stupid ordinance to be applying to cul-de-sac’s and places like that when it shouldn’t be, but we couldn’t figure out a way to change the ordinance.”

It appears as if Section 70-4 will now be heading to City Manager Donna Mitchell’s desk to see if she will consider modifying the language of the ordinance before sending it to a future vote by city council.

City Planner Dave Hugg said the original ordinance was obviously written for people’s safety in the streets but wondered if there can be some middle ground.

That’s what the Board of Appeals appeared to be seeking.

“I think it’s implicit in your motion for the benefit of the property owner there will be no adverse enforcement action taken during those 60 days,” Mr. Hugg said.

That’s at least 60 days for Mr. Maier to play basketball with his stepson — and possibly more.

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