There are few things 13-year-old Justin Snow loves more than playing basketball.
"Afternoons when I'm here, a lot of kids from my neighborhood come over. That's how I make friends," Snow said. "We're not harming anything. We're just playing basketball."
At times, a half dozen kids will show up to play. His hoop pushes the boundary of the Snow's property line, so the court becomes part of their South Burlington cul-de-sac.
"I have a small driveway and there's no room for me to put it in my driveway," said Justin's mom, Kim Snow. She takes comfort in the fact her home is the gathering spot and says it allows her to keep a close eye on the kids. But there's a problem.
The incessant dribbling and clank of the backboard is driving one of Snow's neighbors crazy. The woman told police the kids are in the street and making noise for hours. "She has just called us to find out what the law was to see if there was any relief, any remedy that could be provided," said South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple.
This call ignited the neighborhood. The neighbor declined to speak to us, but other residents had plenty to say. "We never had any problems. No one ever complained. I would rather see the kids playing on the street then selling and buying stuff on the street," said local resident Gail Holmes.
"Streets are made for cars and temporary use of pedestrians, not play use," Chief Whipple said. "By the letter of the law, I feel that it's illegal. "Whipple says the road game violates a disorderly conduct law that says it's illegal to block vehicular traffic, even for a moment. As well as a motor vehicle statute called pedestrians in the roadways. This requires pedestrians to keep to the left most side of the road, facing traffic at all times. It's punishable by a $214 fine."I grew up on both sides of this," Whipple said. "It's kind of a Catch-22."
"One of the suggestions was, you know, limiting the time that they play, but do I really need to limit the time that my kid plays outside in the fresh air?" Kim Snow said.
Police say these cases require them to apply a dose of common sense and exercise discretion. "We're not sanctioning it, we're not telling you that it's okay and that we support it, but we're also not going to come up there and take enforcement action at this time," Whipple said.
Police say community mediators were called in, but they were unable to broker a compromise between the neighbors. The neighbor who originally called police has withdrawn the complaint.
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