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Village proceeds with proposed changes to skateboard ordinance

April 18, 2012 - Oxford Village officials are moving forward with proposed amendments to the municipality's ordinance regulating "skateboards, scooters, mopeds, extreme rollerblading and extreme biking."

The village is considering changing it to specifically allow skateboards when "solely used for transport purposes."

"I'm personally in favor of this," said Councilman Tony Albensi.

Immediately following an April 10 public hearing on the issue (see related story right), village officials also decided, for safety reasons, to incorporate language that prohibits skateboarding on the sidewalks along Washington St. (M-24) between Dennison and East streets, and along Burdick St. between Hudson St. and the southeast parking lot's driveway next to Creative Embroidery.

At the suggestion of village Manager Joe Young, council decided to add proposed language allowing non-motorized scooters for transportation purposes as well.

Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth was particularly in favor of the proposed restrictions on where skateboarders can ride in the downtown area. Her fear is skateboaders could run into people as they exit downtown businesses onto Washington St., causing injuries to both parties.

"I would prefer not to have the skateboards from East (St.) to Dennison (St.) simply because those doors do come right up to the sidewalk – and that is where a majority of the foot traffic is in town," she said. "Once you get past those blocks, there usually isn't that much foot traffic. You've got setbacks. You're not running into someone's door."

Jeff Ellis, a young skateboarder who resides in Oxford, expressed his belief that such restrictions are unnecessary.

"If there was someone walking down the sidewalk, I would either slow down or wait until (a) time that I could pass them," he said. "I wouldn't run into them . . . I would, as a person, wait my turn before I can go."

Albensi also wasn't in favor of the proposed restrictions.

"If people take their skateboard from their home to the downtown to work and we say they can't skateboard downtown, they're in effect violating the ordinance," he said.

"Where do we stop? We allow people to jog through our downtown . . . Are we going to limit people from jogging downtown? I don't think so . . . It's very similar. I don't think skateboarders go much faster than joggers, if faster at all. A lot of times you see these people jogging and they've got ear buds in and they're distracted . . . How far are we going to go?"

Village President Tom Benner believes that should these ordinance amendments be approved, it's up to the community's young skateboarders to ensure they follow the rules and are "considerate of other people." This would be their "chance to prove themselves as young adults," he noted.

"I'm sure the majority of you are very responsible young people," Benner said.

But as with everything else in life, there are exceptions.

"There's always the potential (for) an accident" and there's always a few young people who will "goof off," according to Benner, so that's why not everyone supports the idea of allowing skateboarders in the downtown area.

"I've had telephone calls from elderly residents that said, 'Well, if they're going to be in the downtown area, I'm not going to go shopping down there because I don't want to get hit by a skateboarder,'" he said. "I was originally kind of against this idea because of the senior citizens and the DDA wants walkability in the downtown. In order to get walkability, you want people to feel safe."

That's why Benner believes it's important for skateboarders to regulate themselves and their friends, "so we don't have injuries . . . we don't have complaints" and "the police don't have to get involved."

"Elderly folks will appreciate it very, very much," he said.

Albensi didn't view it the same way as Benner.

"I'm not in favor of this as a test to our young people in this community," he said. "I'm in favor of this because I'm in favor of this."

Albensi explained that he doesn't wish to give the impression that "if one or two of them get out of line, then we're just going to go back and not allow this."

Although he understands the desire expressed by some during the public hearing to change the ordinance to require safety equipment such as helmets, knee pads and elbow pads, Albensi wasn't in favor of that either.

"I completely understand the liability issues, but . . . there is some personal responsibility (on the part of) skateboarders to protect themselves, in my opinion," he said.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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