Jackson County

Ocean Springs asked family with basketball goal to apply for license, then denied it

The Boudreauxs, from right, Dale and Daralyn, with their son Evan, attend the Ocean Springs aldermen’s meeting to plead their case to keep their basketball goal. It isn’t ugly or unsafe, Dale anda Daralyn said.
The Boudreauxs, from right, Dale and Daralyn, with their son Evan, attend the Ocean Springs aldermen’s meeting to plead their case to keep their basketball goal. It isn’t ugly or unsafe, Dale anda Daralyn said. klnelson@sunherald.com

They lost at City Hall this week, but not without an all out effort to save their basketball goal.

Dale and Daralyn Boudreaux asked city aldermen to support them in their application for something that would allow the goal — a license to encroach onto city right of way.

The basketball goal — a gift to their son Evan last Christmas — is cemented into the ground in front of their home. It’s in the little strip of ground between the sidewalk and the street, which is city right of way. The street is a short deadend, or cul-de-sac, with about a half-dozen homes on it.

More than 75 neighbors in the Bienville Place subdivision have signed a petition asking that the goal stay and the children be allowed to use it.

The city had issued a citation because a member of the board of the Bienville Place homeowners’ association filed a complaint, calling the goal aesthetically displeasing — ugly — and unsafe for children in the street.

The Boudreauxs first brought the citation to the Board of Aldermen last month and were told that a citation is like a traffic ticket, aldermen can’t fix it. It has to go to court. But they did suggest the Boudreauxs apply for a “license to encroach.”

Hopeful, Dale Boudreaux came back to the board on Tuesday with his application for the license. He reminded the Board of Aldermen that he has photos of 60 basketball goals around town — most of them portable — that are on city sidewalks and in streets and if his was illegal, so were those.

But this time, city leaders were split on the issue.

They voted 4-3 to deny the Boudreauxs.

There was concern that if a basketball goal was allowed in a right of way, it would set a precedent for other objects to be allowed. City planners said there are very few cases of anyone asking for a license to encroach. Usually it comes with a building that extends out over an easement, a misplaced parking lot or the need to acknowledge that a building was built in the right of way years ago.

Discussion went both ways

Here was some of the conversation Tuesday night:

▪  Mayor Shea Dobson said, “I’m personally in favor of approving it. I understand the concern for precedence, but if you put the right language in, you can overcome some of that.

“Putting a basketball goal on a cul-de-sac is a little different than putting it on Government Street. When I was little, we’d play street hockey and put the goals out. To me, it’s like common sense. Let the kids play.”

▪  Alderman at Large Bobby Cox said, “Portable goals sound like a good fix, but after storms, I’ve picked a lot of them up out of the streets. I personally think it would be safer in the ground than on wheels.”

▪  Alderman Ken Papania said, “This is a precedent that will violate our code. I think we’ll have to uphold our ordinances.”

Papania also was concerned the city could be liable in this case.

▪  Alderman John Gill said, “You see basketball goals all over the city on easements, in cul-de-sacs, usually not on named roads or residential streets.”

Gill said that if this would help kids stay at home and not be running the streets, he was all for it.

“I agree,” Gill said. “We’d have to take down everyone (of the goals) in the city ... we have violations all over. Do you want to start tomorrow with everyone in the city? Where do you want to draw the line? With a bunch of kids?”

▪  Alderman Rickey Authement said, “As much as I’d like to see kids outside at night playing, rather than inside on video games, I had a situation in my own ward where there were encroachments, and I had to make people move something that was in the right of way.”

It appears to be rare

Public Works Director James Foster told aldermen this is an issue of personal property installed on city right of way.

“We don’t usually let that happen,” Foster said.

He and other city employees said there are utility, water and sewer lines under city right of way.

In this case, they said, there was a sewer line near where Boudreaux installed the goal.

Alderman Gill replied, “Well obviously he missed it.”

Alderman Rob Blackman said, “Why do we even have that license to encroach if we’re not going to let them use it?”

So what’s next?

Dale Boudreaux said he would rather not comment at this time.

City Court held off hearing the case of the ticket until alderman had a chance to vote on the license to encroach, city officials said.

City Building Official Hilliard Fountain said they likely will reissue a court date and there will be a decision whether to have them remove the goal or not.

Fountain said, “It’s up to the judge now.”

How they voted on the application to encroach:

For:

Alderman at Large Bobby Cox, and Aldermen John Gill and Rob Blackman

Against:

Aldermen Mike Impey, Joey Bellman, Rickey Authement and Ken Papania

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