Town to consider pickleball noise levels in communities

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Zoning Codes traditionally change and evolve to reflect the desire of communities and evolving lifestyle trends.

In general terms, as homes get larger, boats turn into yachts and ceiling height in residences grow higher, codes and building provisions are altered to accommodate the trends. And so it goes when it comes to what is allowed as far as recreation in residential zones.

For decades, Longboat Key has allowed tennis courts to be built throughout primarily multi-family residential areas. In fact, some communities such as the Players Club, Club Longboat and Cedars East were marketed and evolved as tennis-oriented communities. But that interest in tennis has peaked and in many cases is being subsumed by pickleball.

Throughout the Key, dozens of tennis courts have been re-striped and configured to accommodate the denizens of pickleball aficionados. But in zoning, not all things are equal.

For instance, an acceptable accessory use such as tennis courts cannot simply be turned into bowling alleys, a gun range or a baseball field just because a condominium association wishes to change the use.

Tennis is a permitted accessory use in the Town Code and that is why tennis courts are ubiquitous throughout the Key.

The Longboat Key Town Commission will soon decide on whether to amend Chapter 158 of the Zoning Code to allow pickle ball an additional racket sports as allowable accessory uses. The matter could proceed as simply as adopting the same standards as the tennis courts and the matter will be done.

Alternately, the commission may consider, as Planning, Zoning and Building Director Allen Parsons writes in a recent report, whether separate location and setback requirements should be considered or adopted. The commission at an earlier meeting said that further research would be warranted on whether tennis and pickleball courts should be treated differently in the zoning code. This desire arose from the perception that pickleball might be a significantly noisier sport due to the cracking sound of the paddles slapping the balls.

But at its most recent meeting on the topic on Oct. 15, the commission suggested to staff to not further consider separate development standards for pickleball. Part of the rationale at that meeting came from the fact that pickleball is currently being played throughout the island on existing tennis courts. Furthermore, the fact that only a slight adjustment to an existing tennis court is all that is needed to render it into a pickleball facility.

Parsons writes in his report that staff is of the opinion that sound mitigation could be a consideration in situations where a recreational court is proposed in close proximity to a residential neighbor.

The Commission is slated to discuss the issue at its Dec. 2 regular meeting.

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