MUNSTER | The Town Council is reconsidering an ordinance that eliminated a variety of sports-related structures in residents’ yards as public nuisances after hearing impassioned pleas from families and comments from town staff members at Monday’s work-study session.
On April 23, the council approved Ordinance 1552 as an amendment to Chapter 18 of the Munster Town Code.
It specifically prohibits the maintenance, use or operation on private residential properties of bicycle track or course such as a BMX track; ice skating rink; skate boarding, roller skating or roller blading track or course; full court basketball court with two baskets; or “any other athletic, sporting or related activity performed on residential property in such a way the noise, lights or an excessive number of participants interferes with the peace and quiet enjoyment of neighboring properties."
The code also imposes a fine of $250 per day until abatement of the nuisance.
Action by the council resulted from numerous complaints about a BMX track constructed by a family on Beech Avenue.
According to Town Manager Tom DeGiulio, the track was too large for the small residential lot; its construction interfered with drainage and “there was an alleged commercial aspect."
“The noise was the cherry on top,” he said at Monday’s meeting during a discussion of the ordinance.
All the residents’ comments Monday were about ice skating rinks used for skating and hockey.
Pam Bailey said her family has built a structurally-sound ice rink in their backyard each winter for about six years.
“We do put up lights because it’s dark by 4 p.m. People have lights on their pools,” Bailey told the Town Council. “We’ve never had the police come or had a neighbor complain.
Stan Jayjack questioned the rationale for the ordinance.
“Why don’t you (the council) want people to skateboard, ice skate, play hockey or basketball?” he asked. “Let the kids make noise. ... If I want to flood my backyard for my grandchildren, I’ll pay the $250 a day fine.”
Jayjack said the ordinance was an invasion of privacy because “if you come into my backyard, you’re coming into my bedroom.”
Joe Yokovich said hockey is a very expensive sport for families.
“It costs $345 per hour to rent a piece of ice and between $50 and $110 for a hockey stick,” he said. By putting an ice rink in a backyard, families are able to afford the sport for their children, Yokovich said.
Town Engineer James Mandon said he found the ordinance discriminatory because it singles out specific sports. He recommended the council redo the ordinance not has a public nuisance law but as a law that gives guidelines for placing sports structures.
The council asked the town staff to rework the ordinance and bring it back for reconsideration.
DeGiulio said the staff would report back on Ordinance 1552 in August.