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Commissioners to approve ban on skateboarding in downtown

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

City commissioners decided Monday to ban skateboarding in downtown.

The measure was a response to complaints that some teenage skateboarders had been damaging property, hogging sidewalks and taking over parking lots and plazas.

According to one report, young skateboarders have caused $1,500 worth of damage outside the new Harborview Center.

Commissioners elected not to classify violators as criminal offenders, although Mayor Rita Garvey supported such a provision. She argued that forcing parents to collect their children from police would be a good way to get them involved.

"I think that's a little draconian," Commissioner Bob Clark said.

"I agree," Commissioner Karen Seel said.

Garvey conceded the point.

The measure still contains a provision that could involve parents if their children continued to violate the ordinance. Parents themselves could be cited.

But Assistant City Attorney Rob Surette said that is a remote possibility.

"It frankly has come constitutional problems," he told commissioners. Parents would have to be caught blatantly condoning, almost encouraging, their kids to violate the ordinance for them to be cited, Surette said.

Violations carry a penalty of $30 for first offenses. An additional $35 would be tacked on for the second offense, $80 for the third offense, $130 for the fourth offense and $155 for the fifth offense.

Approval of the ordinance will not be final until it goes through two public hearings. The first is scheduled for Aug. 15, the second on Sept. 5 at City Hall.

The ordinance would ban skateboards from streets, sidewalks and parking garages in downtown. Officials have yet to set the enforcement boundaries, but they have tentatively defined downtown as the area bounded by Clearwater Harbor on the west, Missouri Avenue on the east, Drew Street on the north and Court and Chestnut streets on the south. That area includes Coachman Park.

The measure also would ban people using in-line or roller skates from parking garages and lots, and from any areas with "No skating" signs. The ordinance would not ban these skaters from streets or sidewalks as long as they yield to pedestrians and street traffic.

It also has provisions for extending the ban outside downtown, but only on properties with "No skateboarding" signs.

Garvey and others took pains not to appear too harsh.

The mayor said she has witnessed young skateboarders crowding out pedestrians in Station Square Park downtown, but she added: "I also understand they're just there to have a good time."

Commissioners also plan to add a provision that states the ordinance will not prohibit skaters or skateboarders from using the Pinellas Trail. After years of delay, a key section of the trail is scheduled to be built through downtown next year.

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