Backyard hockey rink put on ice after neighbour complaints

6 weeks and $700 worth of permits later, Nick Radojevic’s rink for his sons got built

By Clare Bonnyman, CBC News Posted: Dec 23, 2016 4:32 PM ET

Nick Radojevic’s sons Josh, 7, and Ryan, 5, played on this rink last year, which their dad built just outside their property. Radojevic didn’t think he’d have any trouble when he built this year’s rink in his backyard. (Nick Radojevic)

Nick Radojevic doesn’t know which of his neighbours called the city.

But he does know that the anonymous complaints about his planned backyard hockey rink for his sons to play on brought his ambitious plans to the attention of Burlington, Ont., city bureaucrats.

No one has come to me, my wife or to our house and asked, ‘Hey, what are you building? What are you doing? What’s going on?’– Nick Radojevic

Six weeks of paperwork and $700 dollars worth of permits later, his quintessential Canadian winter project is ready to go.

“I guess I was quite ignorant and maybe a little too optimistic saying, oh, you should be able to build a rink in your backyard without having too much of a fuss.”

He didn’t think a skating rink was enough to set off the city.

And, in fact, he was right. In Burlington, you can build a skating rink without a permit. What Radojevic didn’t realize was that, in the eyes of city hall, he was not building a skating rink but adding a structure.

“It’s basically another deck,” he said.

“Just a rink”

A traditional backyard rink usually involves a tarp on the ground and boards to create the shape. Because of the uneven slope of his backyard, Radojevic’s rink is raised.

“It’s a structure — there’s no question about it. It’s got beams and support,” he said. “I just tried to build a rink that was kind of level.”

Radojevic loves playing with this sons, and never had a backyard rink as a kid. For him, this was a cool piece of Canadiana he could give them. (Nick Radojevic)

His plan was for a rink 12 metres long by 4.5 metres wide that covered most of his yard. He started in early November, and complaints came quickly from neighbours in the Appleby Road and Upper Middle Road area. All of a sudden Radojevic found notices in his mailbox. He thinks it was about the size of the rink.

“If you’re building anything bigger than 100 square feet, it requires a building permit, which I never would have thought for a backyard ice rink,” he said.

The 100-square-foot limit is something like a shed or the size of a “jail cell” he said, and “you wouldn’t skate very far on that.”

What makes a rink

Nick Anastopolous, manager of building permit services and chief building official at the City of Burlington, said in an email to CBC News that a skating rink is not defined as a “building,”

“Building permits would not be required for the construction of the rinks themselves,” he said. “Any associated structures, such as change rooms or accessory structures, may require a building permit if they exceed ten square metres.”

The city said it doesn’t often get called in to deal with skating rinks.

“We maybe have had two or three in the last 10 years,” said Tracey Burrows, who manages the city’s Bylaw Enforcement and Licensing, Planning and Building Department.

‘It’s basically a deck,’ said Radojevic, of the rink that covers the majority of his backyard. (Nick Radojevic)

The original rink

This wasn’t Radojevic’s first run-in over his rink. He previously built a rink just beyond his fence, but received complaints from neighbours and Conservation Halton. Understandable, since he essentially built a rink on someone else’s property.

“The research I did was actually kind of minimal,” he admits. But Conservation Halton was understanding of his mistake and he got off pretty easy.

“We agreed that a) I would never do it again and b) I would take it down in March,” he said. “They kind of said, well, if you did it in your backyard you wouldn’t have had any problems,” said Radojevic.

“So I did.”

Anonymous offence

All complaints to the City of Burlington remain anonymous, but Radojevic thinks he has a guess. In any case, it leaves him scratching his head for the second year in a row.

“That’s the biggest surprise I’ve had, is that no one has come to me, my wife or to our house and asked,, ‘Hey, what are you building? What are you doing? Whats going on?’

“It’s like nobody is willing to actually come and talk to me,” he said.

“It’s easy to complain to a 1-800 number than to complain to someone’s face or look someone in the eye,” he said.

Radojevic’s rink was built with support beams to help raise it off his sloped lot. (Nick Radojevic)

‘You can’t do what I did’

Radojevic is finally putting the finishing touches on his fully approved backyard rink, just in time for Christmas. In a tweet, a friend referred to it as Santa 1, Grinch 0.

But he’s not angry, and he’s happy to have learned his lesson.

“You can’t just build what you think is a simple backyard rink — or maybe it’s not such a simple backyard rink, but building it first and then asking for forgiveness doesn’t seem to work out,” he said.

“If there are any other dads out there wanting to build a backyard rink: you can’t do what I did.”

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