Maplewood Township Committee will introduce an ordinance at its next meeting that would allow curbside sports equipment from April 1 through December 31. The ordinance has been recommended by the Code Enforcement Committee, which has been studying the matter since local residents protested receiving summons fining them for curbside temporary basketball hoops last summer.
Although those residents received a reprieve last September, many worried that the Township Committee might reverse the gesture of allowing curbside hoops when they received news last December that the equipment had to come down as of January 1, 2015, in order not to obstruct snowplows.
Under the proposed ordinance announced tonight, equipment would be allowed on the grassy median — or berm — between the sidewalk and the curb starting April 1 and running through December 31.
Mayor Vic DeLuca noted that the Department of Public Works had asked for the equipment removal “in snow months because there have been instances where snow equipment has hit them.” DeLuca said the proposed ordinance would allow the hoops in the non-snow months “notwithstanding any other emergency situation.”
Both Township Committeeman Marlon K. Brownlee and Committeewoman India Larrier — who chairs the Code Enforcement Committee — noted that the ordinance also allows for other equipment like lacrosse goals and soccer nets. Brownlee wanted to counter talk that “this was somehow a comment on basketball hoops in particular.”
Larrier also addressed some criticism from residents who “mentioned that we have to give residents credit. We do give residents credit. That’s why we’ve done this. If we thought people would be irresponsible, I would not vote on this.” She added, “I believe strongly that we need to give our code enforcement staff the leverage to have those guidelines.”
Committeeman Jerry Ryan, also addressing criticism from some residents that the Township Committee was going back on its word, said, “I don’t think we are going back on our deal. I think this change codifies what we were trying last fall.”
Maplewood resident Marli Craig, who came to advocate for curbside equipment year ’round was not assuaged.
“I still feel they want to legislate common sense,” said Craig, “making another law that they may or may not have the time and resources to enforce. When’s the last time they went around to summons people for not shoveling their walk? I think in our pedestrian and very walkable town that this more of a problem and safety issue in the winter than a few hoops on the berm.”
Craig said she would be back at the Feb. 3 meeting and expected more residents would join her. Craig said she felt that the equipment should be allowed throughout the year as “there are warm days between January 1 and April 1 where kids want to be outside playing.” In the event of snow, Craig said, “they should simply enact the same plan they do when there is a snow, weather emergency/state of emergency [when residents cannot park on street]. The town has been good at alerting residents regarding impending bad weather and this would be a simple way to deal with the issue.”
However, Michael Kasdan, who led the charge for allowing the hoops, said the discussion was “good news.”
“Although I was not there tonight, based on what I have heard, I am glad to hear that, as promised at the September meeting, the Township Committee have taken the first steps towards pass an ordinance that will allow curbside sports equipment.”
Kasdan said he was concerned going into the meeting “that the winter was being used as an excuse to force removal of the hoops and that there was no concrete timeline to pass an ordinance permanently permitting curbside hoops.”
“In all, I am pleased that the Township Committee took the steps they did today,” said Kasdan. “Although clearer communication earlier would certainly have been better in avoiding today’s ‘fire drill.'”
The Village Green will post the language of the proposed ordinance as soon as it becomes available.