ST. JOHN | The issue of a backyard basketball shooting pad finally has been resolved.
On Thursday, the St. John Town Council voted to grant the variance sought by Hunter Atkins and his family for the 40-by-30-foot concrete pad that was installed by builder Dan Steiner when the Atkins family purchased a spec house in Lake Hills in April.
The Atkins' son is following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps with talent and a passion for the game of basketball. Steiner poured the pad before the family moved in during May so the boy could practice shooting baskets.
Steiner and Atkins said the pad is needed because the home’s driveway has an 8 percent slope down to the street. Atkins, who played standout basketball for Highland High School and Loyola University, said that slope was too dangerous for shooting hoops.
However, the pad was red-tagged by the town of St. John soon after because officials said it needed a special exception. A 2009 ordinance prohibits “sports courts” or full basketball courts on private property unless a variance is granted.
The matter ping-ponged between the St. John Board of Zoning Appeals and the Town Council over the past two months.
In June, the BZA sent the matter to the council with an unfavorable recommendation. On June 27, the council voted to deny the variance. The Town Council has the final jurisdiction over variances, said Town Attorney David Austgen.
However, an impassioned plea from the Atkins family at that meeting changed the councilmen’s minds.
The council reversed its denial of the variance and remanded the matter back to the BZA. That board met Monday.
Concerns about drainage and the percentage of the lot taken up by the pad were addressed at the July 23 meeting. In addition, Steiner showed the BZA board written approval by the Lake Hills Homeowners Association with the stipulation that no lights be installed.
More than 30 of the Atkins family's neighbors showed up at that meeting to speak in favor of the shooting pad. Only one neighbor remonstrated against it.
Dave Milausnic, varsity boys basketball coach at Lake Central High School, also spoke on behalf of the Atkins family at the BZA meeting. He decried the loss of safe recreational opportunities for children.
With only three of the five BZA members in attendance at Monday’s meeting, the board couldn’t agree to send a favorable recommendation to the Town Council. Instead the BZA gave the variance for the shooting pad “no recommendation.”
The council granted the variance after stipulating the pad wouldn’t have lights, there would be no netting put up around the pad and a landscaping plan with arbor vitae surrounding the pad would be installed.
The Atkins family members smiled broadly as they agreed to those conditions.