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Community targets illegal hoops

Basketball lovers, beware. The Tampa Palms Owners Association is cracking down on driveway goals for a variety of deed restriction no-nos.

There are ones with peeling paint and ones with wrong-colored poles. Some are too close to the sidewalk and some face the wrong way. Most don't meet the standard landscaping requirements and several don't have clear backboards.

"The list (of nonconforming goals) is as long as my arm," said Bonnie French, who became the association's property manager in January.

But homeowners still seem puzzled about the rules, despite several mailed notices of violation as well as an article in Tampa Palms' February newsletter, "It's Spring . . . Time For New Basketball Goals," describing the criteria.

Some say they're especially puzzled by the rule that forbids many newer, more aesthetically pleasing portable goals, while some older, rustier permanent goals are allowed.

Portable goals - the kind that are attached to a movable base - are not allowed in Tampa Palms because of "unsightly appearance" and "the tendency for portable goals to disrupt neighbor views," according to the newsletter.

Also, French said, "99 percent either are not in the right place (between the sidewalk and garage) or don't have the required landscaping." When the association outlawed portable goals in the late 1990s, some of the goals were allowed to remain if they were secured in a way that was similar to permanent ones, but none of the goals are approved today.

Robert Suarez, who lives on Fairchild Drive, said he hasn't received any notice of violation. Yet his permanently installed goal has a silver pole, is bereft of landscape buffering and features a backboard that is of the older, metal, half-moon variety.

The current standards in Tampa Palms require the pole to be black or white, have a clear backboard and be buffered by shrubbery "to soften the effect" and alleviate the starkness of the pole."

While Suarez's permanent goal has brought no violation notice, a goal set up in his neighbor's yard just 15 feet away - with a black pole and a clear backboard - is of the kind regarded as illegal, because it is portable. (It was unclear whether the neighbor received a notice.) A homeowner living on Wainwright Court recently threw out his portable goal after receiving a notice.

That portable-permanent distinction confuses Suarez and other Tampa Palms residents. In some deed-restricted communities, the rules are just the opposite.

In Westchase, for instance, permanently installed basketball goals are forbidden while portable goals are accepted, though regulated. (Portable goals must go back in the garage or house after each use.)

Some think permanent goals might be liabilities because of the potential expense borne by a home buyer who decides he doesn't care for the goal left by a seller.

"You'd think the portables would be legal and permanent ones would be illegal," Suarez said, adding that he was considering removing his goal now that his sons are grown, though it won't be an easy task lifting it from its cement base.

The crackdown on basketball hoops comes on the heels of a Tampa Palms taxing district meeting this month, during which some board members complained about a lack of recreational activities for kids in the area. It was suggested the lack of parks and recreation caused a recent rash of vandalism.

French insisted she was not against basketball goals, nor was she singling out any particular homeowners for their violations. But the rules are clearly stated in the newsletter, and anyone who needs clarification can call the association, she said.

The association is still waiting for replies from several who received violation notices.

"We don't expect to wave a magic wand and have them disappear overnight," French said.

Times staff writers Jeff Testerman and Stephanie Hayes contributed to this report. Emily Nipps can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or nipps@sptimes.com.

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