It was like watching a train wreck.
Residents of Silverado Trail in Stetson Hills east of Powers Boulevard came before the Colorado Springs City Council last week and lobbed ugly at each other.
“Pedophile.” “Pervert.” “Obsessive.” “Irresponsible parents.”
It’s not often such a nasty neighborhood fight takes center stage at City Council.
At issue was Jeff Clarke’s appeal to keep his basketball hoop, built illegally next to the curb and facing Silverado Trail, a street of modest homes built in the 1990s.
Last summer, neighbors reported the hoop, with its steel pole, clear pastic backboard and adjustable mount, as a code violation.
Karen Amos admitted to the council that she filed the complaint in retaliation against Clarke.
“Mr. Clarke has made us all very accountable for our own actions with regard to not following the code,” Amos testified. “To me, fair is fair. You can’t pick and choose which rules to enforce and disregard the ones that apply to yourself.”
As she, Clarke and neighbor Brigitte Scott testified, it became clear. Silverado Trail is a disaster zone.
Clarke, his wife and three sons bought their home and its street-side basketball hoop in 2003. Life was fine then.
A career soldier, he retired in 2006 after tours in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Then he returned to Afghanistan as a private contractor for two years.
When he came home in 2010, the neighborhood had changed, he said.
“In the time I was gone, many people have moved in and out of the neighborhood,” Clarke told me. “I come back and I’ve got foolish neighbors.”
He said neighbor kids take his landscaping rocks, damage his sprinkler heads and cars and pick his strawberries, apples and flowers.
“Due to the damage, I placed security cameras on my property,” Clarke said. “The true problem isn’t the basketball hoop but the parental supervision of their children and not accepting responsibility for the damage that they cause.”
Amos and Scott said Clarke is the problem, not them.
They said he curses at their kids when they try to play on the basketball hoop, chasing them, screaming and intimidating them by photographing them.
Clarke admitted he has screamed at the kids and chased them away.
“But I didn’t cuss at the kids,” he told me. “I called them white trash. That’s my term of endearment for them and their parents.”
I think you get the picture.
The council did too, rejecting his appeal and giving him 45 days to remove the basketball hoop.
But this one isn’t over yet.
“I’m not pulling it out,” Clarke told me. “Absolutely not. I didn’t place it there. I’m not pulling it out.”
What if neighbors get even more upset?
Follow this link to watch Jeff Clarke, Karen Amos and Brigitte Scott testify before City Council. Jump ahead to the 1:48:38 mark of the video.
To read about it, follow this link to the City Council agenda and flip to page 137.