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Residents slam noise, notifications in pickleball project

Residents of Winding Oaks say Key Club's proposal for four new courts is out of bounds.

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  • | 10:30 a.m. May 10, 2022
Four pickleball courts are proposed between courts 12 and 17 of the Longboat Key Club's Tennis Garden and a golf course fairway.
Four pickleball courts are proposed between courts 12 and 17 of the Longboat Key Club's Tennis Garden and a golf course fairway.
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Residents of Winding Oaks, in a series of objections emailed to Town Hall, say potential noise from four proposed pickleball courts on the northwest corner of the Longboat Key Club's Tennis Gardens threatens their quiet way of life. 

And, they say, they weren't notified by mail of a public hearing on the matter until days after Planning and Zoning Board's meeting took place on April 19. The Town Commission is expected to hear a presentation and conduct a public hearing on the proposal at its meeting Monday, June 6 at Town Hall. An initial vote could follow that day. 

Rick Konsavage, the managing director of the Longboat Key Club, said the proposed courts are 328 feet from the nearest Winding Oaks home, farther away than existing courts are from residential property alongside the Moorings.

"Presently we have four pickleball courts next to Marina Bay, … and no one has mentioned or even complained about noise from the pickleball courts that have been in effect for the past four years," he told the Observer in an email, adding that the existing courts are about 290 feet from the nearest homes. 

Those four courts, among the first on the island, were converted from two tennis courts in 2019 to meet the demand of the sport that was just beginning to catch on locally. 

Winding Oaks residents began emailing Town Hall shortly after a story was published in the Longboat Observer detailing the proposal for the new courts, many saying it was the first they had heard of the proposal.

Town commissioners on May 2 discussed the mail-notification issue and learned that George F. Young, Inc., the developer of the project, mailed the notifications on April 5, meeting the town's prescribed two-week period. Commissioner BJ Bishop said she received a $4.28 certified letter on April 21.

Some Winding Oaks residents said they received notification even later. 

"This is the first case since I've been here, going on now five years, and we may not be receiving this kind of feedback. I don't know if this one — there was something unique that happened here with the postal service," said Allen Parsons, the director of Planning, Zoning and Building.

Parsons told the Observer that the town is looking into the issue with the U.S. Postal Service and that an examination of some of the letters' tracking numbers show they were scanned by a Tampa postal-distribution site on April 18 after being mailed from Lakewood Ranch 13 days earlier.

Town Attorney Maggie Mooney on May 2 said the notification requirements relate to due process in a quasi-judicial setting, but mailings are only part of the public-notification process. The proposal was, for example, advertised in a public-hearing notice in the April 14 edition of the Longboat Observer.

"You truly wouldn't think it would take until the 21st of April to get there, especially paying that much money for it," Bishop said. "But it's not working."

In addition to complaints about notification, residents of Winding Oaks wrote to the town that the noise of pickleball can be distracting, especially if windows and doors are open, an issue that was raised in the Planning and Zoning Board meeting by member Jay Plager, recalling a similar dispute at the Bird Key Yacht Club in 2017. 

“The neighbors raised such a fuss that they gave it up because pickleball courts do have a very distinct sound, as you know,” Plager said on April 19.

Mike Rissman, the vice president of engineering with George F. Young Inc., said the courts adjacent to the tennis facility are a consistent use but he didn’t expect any sound issues.

“I know one of the complaints about pickleball courts is the funny noise the ball makes when it hits the racket or the paddle, but I don’t really anticipate the sound is really going to travel any more than the tennis courts,” he said.

One Winding Oaks neighbor who registered his displeasure over the proposal urged the Longboat Key Club to keep trying to find a better site.

"I might suggest that given the extensive acreage that is owned by the Longboat Key Club they might find a better location that would not impact the peaceful use of homes in a residential neighborhood,'' Charlotte B. Cooper wrote. 

Konsavage said the club plans to move ahead with its proposal.

"There are many club members that reside in Bay Isles that are totally excited to have more courts available," he said. 


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