Source: Sherman Publications

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Village moves ahead with allowing skateboards as transportation

by CJ Carnacchio

May 02, 2012

It appears skateboarding will be specifically permitted in Oxford Village as a mode of non-motorized transportation and there will be no restrictions as to where they can be ridden within the downtown area.

That's the direction the village council appeared to be headed in April 24 as it approved the first reading of amendments to its ordinance, enacted in 2005, concerning "skateboards, scooters, mopeds, extreme roller-blading and extreme biking."

By a 3-0 vote, council set a second reading for its 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 8 meeting at which time officials can adopt the amendments if they so choose.

The village is considering adding language to the ordinance to specifically allow skateboards and non-motorized scooters when "being solely used for transport purposes."

"It makes perfect sense to me," said Councilman Tony Albensi.

"The world's changing," noted skateboarding advocate Aaron Wiley, of Oxford. "There's a lot of green initiatives going on. We need to embrace some of these things and allow them to grow and mature."

Council was also considering prohibiting skateboards, roller-blades, non-motorized scooters, bicycles or similar devices on public sidewalks (adjacent to the front, side or rear of businesses) within the downtown district.

The boundaries of this district include from East St. to Dennison/Stanton St. and from Hudson St. to the southeast quadrant parking lot exit onto E. Burdick St.

"In the restricted pedestrian zone, bicycles, scooters, etc. are to be walked or carried, not ridden or operated," according to the proposed language.

However, after quite a lengthy discussion, council decided to scrap this proposed restricted zone.

Albensi didn't understand how the village could want to allow skateboards for transportation, yet within the same ordinance, also tell folks that if they use them to commute between home and their business or place of employment downtown, they'd have to carry it within the district.

"So, I can't theoretically ride my skateboard to work," he said.

The councilman also didn't like the idea of increasing the amount of rules and regulations on what people can and cannot do.

"We're not in a position, in my opinion, to regulate human behavior or personal responsibility," he said. "That's not what we're charged with doing."

Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn, who attended the council meeting as a village resident, agreed.

"I'm in favor of letting the skateboarders go wherever they want," he said. "I just hate to see (creating) ordinances just to have ordinances. The less we can stick our nose in people's personal lives or screw with their rights the better off everyone is."

Chris Werth, owner of Dubz Bikes & Boards in downtown Oxford, noted all he was interested in when he originally requested the ordinance be amended was allowing skateboards as another way to get around the community without "the risk of a ridiculous fine or penalty or confiscation of a board."

"We're just talking about people using alternative modes of transportation to get from Point A to Point B," he said.

Village Manager Joe Young pointed out that the current ordinance technically does allow for skateboarding, so long as the rider is not obstructing any public place by hindering or impeding the passage of vehicles, traffic or pedestrians; not obstructing or interfering ("or perception thereof") with the "free and uninterrupted use" of a property or business; and not obstructing the entrance to any public place or any other place or building "contrary to the expressed wishes" of the owner, tenant or managing agent.

"The only violation you can be cited for is if your (skateboarding, scootering, etc. is) obstructing, interfering or (being done somewhere) without permission (from) the private property owner," he explained. "Right now, you can take your skateboard (and ride it) as long as you're not interfering (with) or obstructing anyone anywhere."

John Simkus, who co-owns Choo Choo's Chocolate, located at 150 S. Washington St. adjacent to the Oxford Marketplace shopping center, expressed his concerns about skateboarders based on his negative experiences with them illegally using his private property and other properties around him to ride and perform tricks and jumps.

"I wish there wasn't any conflict between skateboarders and businesses, but there is and has been for a lot of years," he said. "If I called Oxford Police every time there was an incident where they're on private property . . . the chief would come in here saying John's calling me all the time."

Simkus admitted he's worried about skateboarders hurting themselves and suing business owners like himself.

He knows that "most of the kids are really good" and he would like to find some "sweet middle ground where we can really come down hard on the ones that are" performing stunts and violating others' property.

Simkus indicated he would like to see a designated place for skateboarders to do all their jumps and tricks.

"I wish we could build a park (for them)," he said. "I don't want to restrict (their) freedom of expression. Young men have to do stuff like that."

Simkus told council he believes the current ordinance has been a benefit to the village.

"The ordinance that has been put in place has made a great difference over these last several years," he said. "I don't even want to talk about before that."

Werth said he understands the current ordinance was created to deal with problems such as vandalism, loitering and destruction of property, but he doesn't want those issues "confused" with simply riding a skateboard for transportation purposes.

Albensi also didn't wish to see skateboarders automatically associated with these crimes and nuisances.

"I don't think categorizing or stereotyping skateboarders as vandals is a proper thing to do," he said. "Just because you put a skateboard in somebody's hand doesn't make them a bad person."

Albensi noted this connection has been "implied in the past" and it's wrong.

"Vandalism is against the law, period. Putting a skateboard in somebody's hand doesn't make them a vandal," he said.

At Werth's request, council is also planning to address the fines and penalties in the current ordinance, which he described as "a bit aggressive."

Depending on whether it's a first, second or third offense and the age of the offender, fines can range from $125 to $500 accompanied by up to 200 hours of community service at the court's discretion.

Violators can also be subject to "confiscation and possible non-return" of skateboard or other device.

Werth noted other communities have lower fines such as $50 and for repeat offenders, skateboards are confiscated for 30 days, then returned to their owners.

Albensi agreed the fines and penalties seem excessive.

"That's way too high," he said. "You don't have to pay that much for going 20 miles over the speed limit in a car."

Simkus disagreed. He indicated that when the ordinance is violated, there should be a severe fine.

"That ought to stay in place," he said.

The village manager was directed by council to return with a different schedule of suggested fines at the May 8 meeting.