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Groton - Tracey and David Beaudet put up a basketball hoop on the side street that runs alongside their house on well-traveled Morse Avenue so their sons would have a safe place to play.
The couple's narrow driveway slopes toward the busier road, so they set up the hoop four years ago on White Street, where they could see the children from the back door.
Then a neighbor complained. Three weeks ago, police told the family to move the hoop because it's on city property, David Beaudet said. Police left notes at the house three times; on the fourth visit, he was home and moved the hoop, he said.
"We had the cops at our house like we were criminals," said Tracey Beaudet. "It was awful." The family has lived in the house for 11 years and has two sons, ages 7 and 11.
Groton City Police Chief Thomas Davoren said the problem stemmed from a neighborhood dispute that police had to mediate.
"We got complaints because kids were playing in the street, basketball was disturbing the neighbor's peace and tranquility, and it turns out the basketball hoop was on city property," he said.
Davoren said he'd hoped the situation could be resolved, but the city had to intervene.
"If we hear of a nuisance, of course we have to respond," he said.
Mayor Marian Galbraith was out of the office Tuesday and Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.
Neighborhood disputes account for about 20 percent of the 100 cases heard each year by Community Mediation Inc., a nonprofit group in Hamden that provides conflict resolution and mediation in the state, said Executive Director Brenda Cavanaugh.
Seemingly trivial issues like barking dogs, bouncing balls or hedges cut along property lines can escalate among neighbors, she said.
The most common neighborhood complaints are about noise, pets and property lines, but other annoyances can also escalate into battles. About three years ago, Community Mediation dealt with a conflict in Branford involving 18 people after police were called to the same street 20 times in two years. The argument started over beach access, Cavanaugh said.
David Beaudet bought the basketball hoop as a birthday gift for his older son. He set it up first in the roadway on White Street before police told him at the time to move it onto the grass. So he did, he said.
Then a neighbor complained that the ball made noise and rolled into the yard, and that the hoop took away easy parking, Beaudet said. Bad feelings simmered for years, then blew up this summer. A homeowner who neighbors said took issue with the hoop declined to be interviewed.
Police didn't disclose who complained.
About three weeks ago, Beaudet came home to find a police officer's note on his front door.
Cindy Garvey, who lives on Morse Avenue across from the family, said she's all for rules, but they should be fairly enforced. Many homes in the city have hoops on the street, she said.
"They should be worrying about other things, like people who speed up this street and go through stop signs, and nothing happens," she said. "It's ridiculous" to send police to a house over a hoop, she said.
"These guys have been there a long time, and it's not like they were playing when it was dark or being disruptive," neighbor Jessica Wilson said.
Tracey Beaudet said she's most upset because she has to worry more with the kids playing basketball in the driveway, because the ball rolls onto Morse Avenue. Everyone complains about kids spending too much time inside playing video games, and hers want to play outside in their own neighborhood, she said.
"It's not fair," she said.