Ellsworth to relocate basketball courts, despite cries from resident that they are unsafe

Posted May 24, 2013, at 6:13 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — The city will move forward with the relocation of public basketball courts into a residential area near its schools, despite the protest of some soon-to-be neighbors.

The two courts on Oak Street will be relocated to Forest Avenue, placed on a city-owned parcel between Holt and Argonne streets. The courts need to be moved to make room for a new senior-living facility set for construction at the former Moore School’s ball field, adjacent to the courts’ current location.

At a City Council meeting on Monday, councilors approved spending no more than the $130,000 already set aside for projects in the area of the city’s schools, which includes the lot picked as the new basketball court site.

The council had previously asked City Manager Michelle Beal to address concerns about noise and safety that some neighbors to the new site had. The new design for the courts includes sound-absorbing curtains that will be placed on the chain link fence surrounding the courts, to keep noise to a minimum.

Another change was to lower the elevation of one of the courts, to keep it out of the line of sight of a single-family home nearby.

Councilors agreed that Beal and city engineer Andrew McCullough had addressed the noise concerns as well as possible, and gave the plan the go-ahead.

But at least one neighbor is still unhappy.

“If you decide to go through with this, I strongly urge you to have some sort of security camera or webcam or something,” said Antoinette Buzzard, who lives at 9 Holt Drive, next door to the site. “I don’t feel safe with this next to me.”

And while there had been others who shared Buzzard’s displeasure at the idea of a basketball court near their home, Beal said concerns about safety were unsupported by experience.

“If you look where they are now, they’re in a neighborhood with apartments across the street, and families, and there has not been an issue,” she said.

Plans for the courts’ relocation will head next to the Recreation Commission for design tweaks and to ensure the plan stays within budget, but with the council’s blessing in hand, it’s unlikely the courts will be relocated to anywhere but Forest Avenue.

“I hope that in the end, people will see that this can certainly be a good thing,” said Councilor Bob Crosthwaite.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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