A Calgary family says the city is out of bounds on a recent scuffle about a basketball net that’s been in place on their driveway for the past 15 years.
Cynthia Nicole Scott says the controversy started in March after she made a complaint to the city’s 311 about her recycling not being picked up.
One week later, she says the city showed up with a warning to remove the basketball net her four kids have been playing with on the front driveway of their Panorama Hills home for the past decade and a half.
“Just one day out of nowhere, a bylaw officer came and said that our basketball net was hindering the recycling bin,” Scott tells Calgary Citizen.
“So, after 15 years, the week after we make a complaint to 311 about the recycling, they come back with a complaint about the basketball net, which I thought was absolutely petty and just in bad taste.”
Appealing the matter
Scott says the order was stated as non-compliance of bylaw 9M2020, “encroachment onto city property,” specifically because it’s difficult for city trucks to maneuver around—but she says they never had a problem before and the bins are 17 feet away from the basketball net.
However, because the city easement is within three metres, they legally can’t have the net placed in that spot.
That’s when the family decided to appeal the decision and they’ve been fighting to keep it up ever since. While the family did have an option to apply for an encroachment agreement, it’s costly (around $750) and isn’t guaranteed to be approved.
However, the appeal was recently denied and the family was told they had to remove the net by the end of the week or face a fine.
“The appeal board is basically there to say if you are in violation of the law, yes or no. They don’t care about any of the other information,” Scott says, adding the board didn’t “care” about the other points, it just cares that the net is over the easement.
After 15 years, the net has been removed
They begrudgingly removed the basketball net on Sunday, which was no easy feat considering it was cemented into the ground because they wanted it to last.
“We had to saw it off so we couldn’t even save it because it was cemented in place. So great, the neighbourhood is safer now that it’s gone.”
Scott says it’s the kids in the community who are suffering the most from the decision.
“This net has been used by every kid in our cul-de-sac who has been there for years and all those kids grew up playing on it. We’ve had kids come to the door that we don’t know asking to use the net and we said ‘no problem,’” Scott says, adding her youngest son who is 12 likely won’t use the community nets by himself because they are a few blocks away.
“I don’t play on the net. But my kids, their friends, all the kids that come and play on it. That’s hurting them, not me. And it’s really frustrating.
Tapping into their councillor
While battling to keep the net up, the family wrote to Ward 3 Coun. Jasmine Mian, who initially wrote a letter of support for them to keep the net up.
However, the first-term councillor soon discovered that she wasn’t technically allowed to do that since the family had already received an infraction for non-compliance.
“Essentially, a councillor’s ability to advocate for residents stops once there’s been an infraction, ticket issued, or a perception that the law has been broken,” Mian explains.
“Sometimes residents will reach out and ask us for support, but we actually aren’t always able to help them. Because in this particular case, a bylaw officer had issued a ticket, and then this was going in front of the subdivision Appeal Board.”
At the time, Mian wrote a letter of support for the family but she received a call from the ethics advisor at the city who advised that she isn’t able to advocate for them on this matter.
“That was a learning moment for me as a new councillor and I was very apologetic to the subdivision Appeal Board, and also to the residents that I wasn’t able to advocate for them any further.”
A matter of safety
Mian says the residents had some options available to them, but keeping the net cemented in the ground like it was wasn’t one of them.
“Some action was required on their front to become compliant with city bylaws,” Mian says.
“I’m sympathetic that they got a decision that they aren’t happy with, and I think anger and frustration is a normal response to that. But ultimately, I think that they had their day in court, and ultimately it didn’t rule in their favour.”
Mian says some bylaws that are in place may seem counterintuitive, but they are usually designed for safety.
“I understand they are frustrated because they’ve had the basketball net for 15 years and feel that it hasn’t been a problem. That’s certainly one way to look at it. And I think the other is that they had 15 years of breaking the bylaw that they got away with.”
Mian says the city is already trying to work with the province about changes to the Traffic and Safety Act to allow street hockey, which is currently illegal, but it’s not up to the city to change the rules.
“We’re advocating to have that changed,” Mian adds.
This isn’t the first time this issue has occurred. In 2019, a Bridgeland resident was told to move a basketball hoop or have it impounded.
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