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Skateboarding ordinance questioned

BUCKHANNON — Twenty-six years after an ordinance passed outlawing skateboarding in the City of Buckhannon commercial districts, one woman wants to see this ordinance removed from the books.

Melissa Daugherty addressed Buckhannon City Council Thursday night by phone about ordinance 268 which she said criminalizes skateboarding.

“I feel like times have changed a lot since the 1990s and the ordinance was created without the use of technology, internet or the things we have today that could make skateboarding a lawful activity that would be healthy and a good outlet for our youth who are lacking things to do around here,” she said.

Mayor Robbie Skinner said, “It appears to me that the ordinance that is on the books now is only concerning our commercial districts. It doesn’t really real that it is truly illegal across the entire city.”

City attorney Tom O’Neill said the ordinance prohibits skateboarding in C1, C2 and C3 commercial districts.

“Skateboarding is not illegal city wide,” he said. “It is certainly council’s prerogative to revisit that policy. There is a reason why this ordinance was adopted back in the day and it would be up to council to determine whether circumstances have changed significantly.”

Daugherty said she understands no skateboarding on Main Street but questioned whether it was allowed at SYCC which is also on Main Street.

O’Neill said, “I don’t think I agree that skateboarding is prohibited on the Stockert property,” he said. “If it’s on the sidewalk, it’s one thing. On Stockert grounds, I don’t agree that is prohibited there.

But Daugherty said there is no where to skate but the sidewalk.

O’Neill replied, “That is a different issue.”

Daugherty said having a skateboard would be ideal.

“I understand with the times right now that that is a little much with the pandemic,” she said. “I would definitely like to do something like that in the future.”

The City of Buckhannon previously built a skateboard in the parking lot of the Public Safety Complex that included ramps and was surrounded by a fence. It was taken down several years ago.

Councilman Dave Thomas noted the city had put $35,000 into building a skatepark.

“Unfortunately, it sort of died from use over a three or four-year period,” he said.

Councilman C.J. Rylands asked if there had been any instances of skateboarders issued a citation.

Daugherty said she learned a friend of her daughter’s received one this summer.

“That is what brought it to my knowledge,” she said. “I have lived here my whole life. I knew it had been banned in the 90s, but I thought it had been lifted because of the skatepark. I just want to make it a little better for our youth.”

Daugherty said skateboarding is viewed differently now.

‘It’s incredibly hard,” she said. “It takes talent. It is a sport now. In the 90s, it was not necessarily considered a sport. It’s now in the Olympics.”

Chief Matt Gregory joined the Buckhannon Police Department in the late 1990s after the ordinance passed.

“To my understanding, I believe the original rational behind why the ordinance came to be at the time was that there were a lot of destruction of property and other type of issues regarding skateboard use at that time,” he said. When it was originally passed not an ordinance and into the early 2000s, there were a number of citations that were written in response to that.”

However, Gregory said he could not recall when the last skateboard citation or skateboard seized in the city had occurred.

“I know it’s been a number of years,” he said. “We used to have quite a collection of skateboards in our evidence room. That hasn’t been an issue for years and years.”

Gregory, who has been police chief for 15 years, said, “We do try to use a lot of discretion particularly with these types of ordinances. Just from own experience, I have seen an evolution of skateboard use. We don’t have nearly the problems with those who use skateboards. It’s not something we are getting complaints on that is grabbing our attention.”

Gregory said he recently saw a group skateboarding.

“They weren’t harming anybody,” he said. “They were just enjoying the day and enjoying their skateboards. I left them alone personally.”

Daugherty said, “If anything, I just think that is more validation that it needs to be lifted. The criminal part is what bothers me. They have bigger fish to fry than people riding a skateboard.”

Thomas said he believed what happened in 1994 with the ordinance passing was, “a lot of the parents and youth were not using common sense. They were creating problems at that time.”

“I had people skateboarding on Smithfield and I don’t have a problem with it; I just hope they don’t get hurt,” Thomas continued.

Skinner said that an ordinance cannot be erased from the books but would need to be modified or changed or replaced entirely.

Thomas suggested council review the current ordinance.

Skinner told Daugherty, “We appreciate your calling in and sharing our concerns with us. The council has heard your concerns. We will take a look at the language and see if there are some changes we can make to it.”

A petition on www.change.org started two months ago by George Radabaugh to change the ordinance and make a new skate park in Buckhannon has nearly 700 signatures so far. View the petition at: https://www.change.org/p/mayor-skate-park-in-buckhannon.

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