Slam dunk ending for Brookside b-ball net

Call it a full-court press.

When the Bourret brothers heard their front-yard basketball net might get pulled because of a city bylaw, they rallied their Upper Beach street to defend it.

Jackson, 16, and Mitchel, 11, only had a few days to get a petition to City Hall. They beat the clock, thanks to 59 neighbours on Brookside Drive and other streets nearby.

Mitchel Bourret, 11, left, and Jackson Bourret, 16, stand under the basketball net outside their home on Brookside Drive. The brothers led a petition signed by 59 neighbours asking for the city to exempt the net from a bylaw against sports equipment placed on its right-of-way. The exemption was adopted by city council with the support of local councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon. PHOTO: Andrew Hudson
Mitchel Bourret, 11, left, and Jackson Bourret, 16, stand under the basketball net outside their home on Brookside Drive. The brothers led a petition signed by 59 neighbours asking for the city to exempt the net from a bylaw against sports equipment placed on its right-of-way. The exemption was adopted by city council with the support of local councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon.
PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

“It’s a rally point for many kids to come and play on the street,” says their father Bernard.

“When it’s sunny outside, it’s not unusual to have three, four, five kids playing in front of the house.”

Anchored in the front lawn, the net can be raised a full 10 feet and stands another foot or two above the facing sidewalk.

While the basket hangs over the sidewalk, Bernard said it’s too high to bother anyone walking below, and the pole is too far from the street to block traffic.

Installed a year ago, Bernard said he was surprised when a bylaw officer warned them late this summer, especially since he had phoned the city before digging in the pole to avoid any gas, power, or water lines.

But there is a technical foul – the net stands in the city’s right-of-way, which extends right up to the Bourret’s front porch.

After she got the brothers’ petition, plus emails and social media messages from neighbours, local city councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon cycled to Brookside one morning before work to meet Jackson and see the net for herself.

McMahon came away impressed by the kids’ campaign, and unconcerned by the net.

“It’s not a big deal,” she said. “It’s one of these things where we don’t have to micromanage everything.”

City staff told McMahon the family could sign an encroachment agreement, which exempts the net from the bylaw and frees the city from legal liability.

That landed the Brookside hoop on Toronto’s City Council agenda last week – the same agenda that saw councillors debate Uber regulations and burying the Gardiner Expressway.

“Believe me, I don’t want to bring it to council, but this is the only way to do it,” said McMahon.

Other councillors have done the same. Councillor Joe Mihevic got a laneway hoop in Wychwood okayed last June.

At the same time, a few blocks from the Bourrets, a family on Glen Davis Crescent had to remove a curb-side net they had been using for five years already. Over the last year, families in Oakville, Oshawa and North York have all received “basketball net on highway” tickets for nets they had used for years without trouble.

Jackson Bourret dunks a ball on his front-yard hoop. PHOTO: Andrew Hudson
Jackson Bourret dunks a ball on his front-yard hoop.
PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

Asked if Toronto might look at a city-wide bylaw change, McMahon said it’s a good question, but a tricky one given that every set-up is different.

Bernard Bourret agrees, noting that it’s easy to imagine how a net could pose a traffic risk.

On the other hand, Bernard also said basketball nets are hard to come by, especially in summer when most public schools take theirs down to avoid vandalism.

McMahon said it’s important not to lose street games that give kids an easy way to have fun, stay fit, and make friends.

“You know, we’re cramped for space at times, so why not use the right-of-way?” she said. “Reclaim your street.”


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