(NEW YORK) — A Maryland man is voluntarily closing a backyard hockey rink built to memorialize his deceased stepdaughter because of a legal dispute between himself and local officials.
Last month, Marc Kohn opened a hockey rink on his 49 acre lot in Poolesville, Md. Since then, it has become popular with neighborhood children and families. But the rink poses a problem to some local officials, who told Kohn it violates a three-decade old local zoning law established to protect farmland. The officials contend, that even though the rink is in Kohn’s backyard, it is in an agricultural reserve, which is not zoned for public use.
In a meeting earlier this week, county officials told Kohn the rink was allowed for personal use, limiting him to hosting only a few friends to skate at a time.
That notion didn’t sit well with Kohn, who is meeting with lawyers to explore his options.
“The county seems more concerned with the grass and the land this rink sits on than all of the kids who are coming out to play,” he said in an interview on Thursday.
As a suggestion, officials said that Kohn could move the rink off his property in order to keep it open and in compliance with the law, but he wanted to keep it in his own backyard.
“My fear is that if we move it, the rink won’t be taken care of, it’s a big difference than when it is at my house,” Kohn said.
He spent $40,000 of his own money and an estimated 300 to 400 hours to complete the synthetic ice rink behind his home in a rural suburb of Washington, D.C., naming it “Mel’s Rink” as a tribute to his late stepdaughter Melanie Osborne, a passionate hockey fan who died in July at age 35 from a respiratory disease.
In a Jan. 5 letter, Isiah Leggett, a Montgomery County Executive, encouraged Kohn to work with local officials to relocate the rink.
“Our objective would be to help implement your vision of a commemorative ice rink for public skating,” Leggett wrote. “If your objective is to invite the public to skate, I hope that you will be receptive to working together to explore relocation of the rink.”
With almost $4,000 raised through a GoFundMe account, Kohn says he’s not looking for that type of agreement.
“These rules are frustrating and they aren’t updated to fit with 2016,” he said.
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