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City Council Creates Skate Ramp Ordinance
Riverbank Fountain

During a recent regular meeting, the Riverbank City Council seemed to struggle selecting an option on the first reading of the proposed ordinance regulating personal skate ramps in single family residential yards.

The skate ramp became an issue between neighbors a while ago and the Riverbank City Council had to step in and get involved after the complaints were brought to their attention.

Prior to the first reading on the agenda regarding the skate ramp ordinance the floor was opened up to the public for comments, which Mayor Richard O’Brien began by stating “how neighbors over the last year have made complaints pitting neighbors against neighbors, people not getting along, cars parked in front of someone else’s house, where they believe it is their street and it isn’t; it is actually a public street.”

He also added, “We have people who don’t like the looks of a vehicle and complain about it, just people not being civil to people. We are in neighborhoods and in neighborhoods we have neighbors, and I would expect that we as neighbors work out our own problems but the city keeps getting them. We are complaint driven.”

City Manager Sean Scully explained that direction given to staff after a long discussion a few months ago was to create a range of alternatives to address the issue so Planning and Building Manager Donna M. Kenney presented council with some options, from being really restrictive to doing nothing, after doing research and talking with community members. The council seemed challenged by this ordinance as they expressed understanding on both sides of the issue. On one hand there is a resident that builds skate ramps and uses one in his back yard, keeping kids outdoors and active and on the other hand their neighbor has a swimming pool and spends a lot of time in the backyard and feels like their privacy is invaded. So one neighbor complained about the noise and the privacy issues with the skaters going up the ramp and being able to see over the fence and to the neighbor with the ramp, many felt he should be able to build a ramp and use it on his own property if he chooses.

“So in the future as people have difficulties with their next door neighbors, person behind them or anything, let’s start working this out individually so it doesn’t have to be addressed or an ordinance be placed to say stop being un-neighborly,” stated O’Brien.

After a presentation and long discussion, the council members, with a vote of 5 to 0, will be implementing some new regulations on residential skate ramps. The option approved stated that a new section of building requirements will be added for a single-family residential district R-1 Zone, to the Riverbank Municipal Code of Ordinances to regulate personal skate ramps with height and setback restrictions.

The first option is a Conditional Use Permit to regulate personal skate ramps on a case by case basis. Kenney explained that currently a Conditional Use Permit is about $2658.56 in fees and requires a trip to the planning commission; however they could choose to create a minor use permit for approximately $1,000 to apply for this type of structure in their backyard. Another option was to set height and ramp regulations and other options were to ban skate ramps in neighborhoods or they could do nothing at all, choosing not to regulate.

During public comment a Riverbank resident stated that he understood the dilemma regarding the decision they had to make.

He stated that “it is basically the right of a resident to utilize his property as he chooses versus the right of a resident to his peaceful enjoyment of his property. I don’t think we are grasping the amount of disturbance this creates.”

He explained to the council that property value loss resulting from the structure is a problem as well as the noise and the privacy issues.

He ended his comment with “we all have a right to the peaceful enjoyment of our homes. I think it is a huge mistake to allow this and to allow it without minimizing the noise and privacy issue I believe is negligent and unbecoming of your service to the public.”

With the recommendation from the Planning Commission, hearing public comment and discussing it at length they added some stipulation to the ordinance that would include noise reducing materials, the time in which it can be built due to the current noise ordinance and the setbacks including the ramp at a height of four feet and 12 feet away from the side or rear of the property lines.

The second reading with the new additions will be held at the next City Council meeting, Tuesday, Aug. 28 at 6 p.m. and the public is invited to attend.