The Lake Club in Wilton, Conn. wants to consolidate pickleball into one area near the center of its 13-acre facility, but neighbors tell the Planning & Zoning Commission that the noise produced by the increasingly popular racquet sport is worse than tennis and is causing a disturbance. “It is loud. It is intrusive,” says Jeffrey Boehme of the popular sport.
The Lake Club in Wilton, Conn. is asking for an amendment to its special permit to enlarge one of its tennis courts and replace its surface to allow space for four pickleball courts, the Stamford Advocate reported. While it currently can host four pickleball games at one time in other areas, as well as several tennis games, the club wants to consolidate pickleball into one area near the center of its 13-acre facility.
Neighbors, however — several of whom are also club members — told the Planning & Zoning Commission on April 24 that the noise produced by the increasingly popular racquet sport is worse than tennis and is causing a disturbance, the Advocate reported.
“We here are a group of residents that are very concerned about the application as it stands,” neighbor Jeffrey Boehme said of the pickleball plan. “I’m a [pickleball] fan … but not in my backyard, because I do not want to disturb the peace and quiet that we all enjoy here in this end of Wilton,” he said.
“It is loud. It is intrusive,” Boehme added.
Club + Resort Business has reported several times on neighbors objecting to the noise created, including at Birchwood Country Club in Westport, Conn.; Longboat Key (Fla.) Club; and Mission Hills (Kan.) Country Club.
The Lake Club is a private membership club that offers racquet sports, aquatics and social events as well as a lakefront; membership is capped at 300 families, the Advocate reported.
In recent years, Boehme and others told the Advocate the Lake Club has been expanding its programming and incrementally increasing noise, lighting and the frequency of large events.
“It feels as though there has been a fundamental shift in how the club operates,” said neighbor Laura Rowley, citing more noise and activities, including parties and a recent wedding.
“It makes me wonder what the club sees itself as,” she told the Advocate. “Hopefully not an events venue.”
She described the pickleball play at the club as “incredibly loud and incredibly disturbing,” the Advocate reported.
But the noise level at the club and in the surrounding area would not increase with the new pickleball courts, according to Martin Schiff of the New York City-based Lally Acoustical Consulting, who presented an on-site study of court-side sound for the Lake Club, the Advocate reported.
“We found that the sound level from the pickleball play on Court One will be similar to the sound level of tennis as it currently sounds,” he said.
While Schiff acknowledged that pickleball and tennis sound different, with a different pitch from racquets and balls, “in terms of the decibel level and the overall noise impact relative to the background sound at the site, the pickleball play should be similar to what people are already hearing from tennis court games on Court One,” the Advocate reported.
Neighbors disagreed, however, questioning the study with regard to the short, sharp high-pitched sound that comes from pickleball as compared to tennis, the Advocate reported.
“To me, the survey is flawed,” said neighbor Joe Kirincich, who wrote to the club expressing his concerns last September. “I have not been able to hear tennis in my backyard, but I’ve heard pickleball.”
“Over the last few years there’s been an extreme amount of noise coming out of the Lake Club … It’s not conducive to what this neighborhood environment should be,” Kirincich said.
P&Z commissioner Chris Pagliaro concurred on the sound differences between the games, the Advocate reported.
“I do question the pitch and sound,” Pagliaro said, describing a banging sound with pickleball that’s unlike tennis, the Advocate reported. While Pagliaro said he had no issues with the site work or drainage, the possibility of noise was in question.
“They need to do something for the acoustics beyond saying, ‘it’s similar in decibels’ because I don’t think this is about the decibels,” Pagliaro said.
Several of the neighbors agreed, describing details of decibel-level duration and presenting material on how different sound measurements can be taken to influence results, the Advocate reported.
The P&Z Commission opted to keep the public hearing open and will be engaging an independent noise consultant, which the Lake Club must pay for, to get a second opinion, the Advocate reported.
“Pickleball is currently being played and has been for the last few years with few if any complaints of the property,” said Kathleen Royle, an attorney for the applicant.
Commissioner Ken Hoffman asked to see a written history of the noise complaints made about the club, the Advocate reported.
“I think this is something we’re going to need to do a little deeper dive into,” P&Z Chair Rick Tomasetti said. That includes a revisit of the original permit for the club’s operation, the Advocate reported.
“We’ll keep this public hearing open and I think there will be other comments when we get that information back,” he said.
Neighbor and club member Michael Solecki pointed out that the popular racquet game has wreaked “disharmony” on some communities around the country but said he doesn’t want to see it happen here.
“I’m proud of the Lake Club,” Solecki said. “I’m proud of who they are and what they’ve achieved.”
“I want peace to be maintained,” he said.
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