ISSAQUAH, Wash. – If you build it, they will come.
Or will they?
In an effort to help his kids have a place to play baseball, David Kelly, a concerned father, built a regulation Little League (search) baseball field for his children. But the local city officials cried foul, halting use of the field, saying it needed permits in order to function.
Now, the national pastime is in the middle of a squeeze play in Issaquah, Wash. (search), where some believe there aren't enough fields for the burgeoning number of players.
"Here I am trying to do something good for the community, and the city of Issaquah is anti-sports, anti-children," Kelly told a local newspaper. "They're just ridiculous."
Kelly built the field on his mother's sprawling 30-acre horse ranch. His son's Little League team played and practiced there for a few weeks — but the city threatened Kelly with a $250 fine each day the team practiced on the field.
Now the field is going mostly unused.
"We're not saying he isn't doing a good thing. He just has to go through the process like everyone else," said Michele Forkner, City of Issaquah code compliance officer.
First, Kelly had to obtain a fence permit, then a permit for parking. After that, the city required a traffic mitigation permit and a runoff permit to protect salmon in a creek a football field's distance away.
City officials say they are just trying to make sure the field is safe and legal — and to protect neighbors who have complained about noise and parking issues created by the field.
But Kelly and some locals say they've had enough of the city's rules.
"Where's it going to end?" Kelly asked. "It's going to get where we need a permit to mow our lawns. The public has to say, 'enough.'"
And some in the community point to the real victims: the Little League players.
"We basically don't have enough fields to go around to all the teams," said Brad Arbaugh, Issaquah Little League President.
"It's a shame that the city and David can't get together and come to some compromise," Arbaugh told the Seattle Times.
Hearing the boos from many in the city, Issaquah officials offered Kelly a deal – one $20 special-use permit.
But Kelly balked.
"There's a place for government, but it's not in the home," said Kelly. "You should still be able to play in your backyard. We just have a really big backyard."
So for now, the benches remain empty. The only game being played on the field is the one between individual property rights and government regulation.