Enforcement Spikes Volleyball

Seven backyard courts are taken down after ‘intel’ from a resident

    Seven of 11 backyard volleyball courts in Springs that have been generating complaints by neighbors were taken down last weekend following visits by East Hampton Town ordinance enforcement officers.

    Neighbors had complained that crowds came every weekend to watch the games, creating traffic and noise and disturbing their neighborhoods.

    The officers found that some of the “playing courts,” as volleyball nets and their playing areas are defined in the town code, were too close to property lines, according to the zoning code’s setback rules, and that some could be defined as a “structure” under the town code and did not have the required building permit or certificate of occupancy.

    Pat Gunn, the town’s public safety chief, said in an e-mail on Tuesday that after a taxpayer provided him with addresses and information about when the games take place, he put together a small team of ordinance inspectors, who visited the sites on Saturday.

    Volleyball is a popular activity for members of the Latino community. The issue of backyard courts first came to the fore a decade ago.

    “I had one of our new Spanish-speaking inspectors accompany a senior inspector to facilitate open communication,” wrote Mr. Gunn. “The strategy was to discuss the complaints and explain the applicable laws in a friendly, nonconfrontational, and inclusive manner in an effort to seek voluntary compliance before initiating more expensive and protracted court charges.”

    Seven courts were taken down while the inspectors were present, Mr. Gunn said, and none of them had been put back up when the properties were visited again the following day.

    At a meeting Monday night of the Springs Citizens Advisory Committee, residents who have complained about continuing volleyball games on courts near their homes acknowledged the work of the Ordinance Enforcement Department and Mr. Gunn, as well as recent town board discussions of the issue.

    Mr. Gunn said that ordinance officers have been “working on playing-court issues all summer,” but that residents’ calls about noise and numerous parked cars had been answered primarily by the East Hampton Town Police Department.

    In response to complaints brought to the town board, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley had proposed a law limiting the number of large gatherings a single individual could host each month. That raised questions about the number that should be set, unintended consequences curtailing noninvasive activities, and how such a law would be enforced. A decade ago, the town board had considered legislation along similar lines, but encountered the same problems and backed away from it.

    In his e-mail, Mr. Gunn wrote that he was “grateful for the community members who provided us with the intel,” but cautioned that the steps taken do not guarantee that problems with home volleyball courts will not arise again.

    Ordinance officers will make more visits this coming weekend, he said.