ST. JOHN | Hunter Atkins was a basketball standout at Highland High School and Loyola University as well as Times Basketball Player of the Year in 1988.
His son is the third generation to show talent and passion for the game. The eighth-grader hones his skills by shooting baskets at his home.
The problem is that since early May, when the family moved into their Lake Hills home, the 40-by-30-foot concrete pad in the backyard where the boy could shoot those hoops has been red-tagged by St. John. That’s because it’s been deemed a “sports court,” which is prohibited by a 2009 town ordinance.
A variance is needed from the St. John Board of Zoning Appeals and the Town Council to allow the boy to use the shooting pad. Both panels denied the family’s request in June. Two neighbors remonstrated against the pad, although one later changed his mind.
An impassioned plea from the Atkins family June 27 at the Town Council meeting also changed the councilmen’s minds.
The Council reversed its rejection of the variance and remanded the matter back to the BZA.
“I didn’t realize this ordinance existed,” longtime area builder Dan Steiner told the three BZA members in attendance Monday. “I didn’t think it was a sports court.”*
Concerns about drainage and the percentage of the lot taken up by the pad were addressed. In addition, Steiner showed the board written approval by the Lake Hills Homeowners Association with the stipulation that no lights be installed.
More than 30 of Atkins’ neighbors showed up Monday to speak in favor of the shooting pad.
Dave Milausnic, varsity boys basketball coach at Lake Central High School, decried the loss of safe recreational opportunities for children.
“Any good basketball player had a hoop on the barn, in the alley or garage,” Milausnic said. “As far as safety concerns, this is a no-brainer.”
After about 50 minutes of testimony, Tom Ryan voted against a favorable recommendation, and Peter Monix and Ken Schneider cast votes for the variance recommendation. The absence of BZA members Jim Maciejewksi and Steve Hastings prevented a favorable recommendation to be made to the Town Council, which takes a majority of the full board.
The BZA voted to send the matter back to the Town Council with “no recommendation."
* This story has been modified from its original version.
A quote in a story appearing in some editions of The Times Tuesday about a family's request for a zoning variance for a basketball court contained an error.
The quote reading "I didn't realize this ordinance existed. I didn't think it was a sports court" should have been attributed to longtime area builder Dan Steiner.
The Times regrets the error.