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Ordinance prohibiting street play may be repealed in St. Peters

St. Peters soon may be cleaning up an ordinance that, according to City Attorney Randy Weber, has the potential of “criminalizing playing in the streets by children.”

“Cleaning up” may mean wiping the slate clean of an ordinance that now technically prohibits children from playing, for example, basketball or street hockey in cul-de-sacs.

The ordinance has never been enforced by city police. But the fact that it remains on the books prompted Alderman Judy Bateman (Ward 2) to ask whether the ordinance, approved in June 1991, should be repealed. The ordinance was controversial at the time and may have been prompted by the complaint of a “very hot tempered man” who didn’t like balls coming into his yard, Bateman said.

Bateman said she wasn’t endorsing children playing in the streets, only suggesting that the ordinance may be too restrictive when it came to families allowing children using cul-de-sacs or side streets.

The board, at a May work session, has discussed changing or eliminating the ordinance, ultimately deciding to direct Weber to draft a bill repealing the ordinance. That bill is likely to come before the board at its July 23 meeting.

At the same work session, St. Peters Police Chief Jeff Finkelstein told the board that city police had not written any tickets enforcing the ordinance during the time he has been chief. While he acknowledged that playing in the streets isn’t the best idea, he said it can be done safely.

“I’d love to see a kid play hockey in the street rather than running around in the middle of the night someplace,” Finkelstein said.

Weber asked the board, at its June 25 work session, if it also wanted to eliminate provisions in the old ordinance that restrict the use of roller skates and skateboards, and prevent toy vehicles from being used on streets except at crosswalks. Bateman and other board members agreed that provision also could go.

City Administrator William Charnisky said it’s almost impossible to name the kinds of play the city could prohibit on a street.

“So it’s easier not to prohibit anything and let the police department use their discretion on whether it (children’s game or play) obstructs traffic, creates a hazard or blocks a view,” Charnisky said. “Then we can take some kind of enforcement under a different section (of the city code).”

In May, Mayor Len Pagano asked Weber if the city was creating a liability by eliminating the ordinance. But Weber said, “The absence of a liability doesn’t create a liability.”

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