Munster reverses ban on backyard skating rinks

2012-09-25T18:00:00Z 2012-09-25T21:47:10Z Munster reverses ban on backyard skating rinksLu Ann Franklin Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
September 25, 2012 6:00 pm  • 

MUNSTER | The Town Council has reversed its position and adopted amendments to an ordinance that banned ice-skating rinks or basketball courts on private property.

The Munster ordinance specifically prohibited the maintenance, use or operation of a bicycle track or course; an ice-skating rink; a skateboarding, roller-skating or inline-skating track or course; and a full basketball court with two hoops.

The original ordinance was an amendment to Munster Town Code and deemed the structures a public nuisance.

It defined a public nuisance as "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 ordinance was prompted by complaints from Beech Avenue residents, who objected to a BMX track that the John Galambos family had constructed.

The adoption of the ordinance April 23 led to protests by residents who have constructed ice-skating rinks in their backyards for years.

During a July workshop, council members heard impassioned pleas from families and comments from town staff members about that ban.

Pam Bailey said her family has built a structurally sound ice rink in its 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 in July. “We’ve never had the police come or had a neighbor complain.”

Munster resident 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.”

Town Engineer James Mandon said he found the ordinance discriminatory because it singled out specific sports. He recommended that the council redo the ordinance not has a public nuisance law, but as a law that gives guidelines for placing sports structures.

That’s what the Town Council did.

On Sept. 15, the amended ordinance had its first reading. Further changes were made after Bailey and husband Bruce questioned two provisions of the rewritten document.

This amended ordinance still prohibits bike tracks, skateboarding and inline-skating tracks and “any other sporting activity that causes excessive noise, lights or involves an excessive number of participants."

Special use permits will be needed for full-court basketball courts and tennis courts.

Ice-skating rinks must adhere to specific standards that are the same as for swimming pools.

The rink must not be visible from the street, must not encroach on any required building setback or public easement and must be at least seven feet from any property line. Lighting can’t interfere with neighboring properties.

Raised rinks must be issued a building permit, and the operation of the rink will be allowed from Oct. 15 to April 1.

Violations could receive a fine of $250 per day until the nuisance is abated. The town also “reserves the right to initiate court action against the property owner," the ordinance states.

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