Bird Key Yacht Club tries to serve up pickleball

mag941 November 27, 2017 0
Bird Key Yacht Club tries to serve up pickleball

But nearby residents worry the sport will make too much racket in the neighborhood.

SARASOTA — The Bird Key Yacht Club plans to serve up six new pickleball and badminton courts in its eastern parking lot.

But some nearby residents have volleyed back, arguing the courts could be a noisy, high-traffic addition to the quiet neighborhood there.

The club has been working on the idea throughout the year and formally filed plans for the project with the city of Sarasota earlier this month.

The proposal includes eliminating the eastern portion of the club’s employee parking lot, transforming 18 under-used parking spaces and several waste bins for six new regulation courts that could be used for badminton and the increasingly popular sport of pickleball, according to documents submitted to the city. The project would include fixes to the kayak rack and fencing there, damaged during Hurricane Irma, and add new landscaping along that edge of the club property.

Pickleball is similar to badminton and tennis, with a specific type of paddle, low net and a ball similar to a wiffle ball. The game attracts all ages but is particularly popular with seniors who are still active but look to avoid the stress and strain of traditional tennis.

Some nearby residents, though, have argued the usual paddles and hard plastic ball used in the game could cause a racket in the neighborhood.

Several complained at community workshops this summer and sent in letters to city staff to oppose the project over the past two weeks.

To try to allay those fears, the club has offered to use so-called quiet paddles and soft balls, as opposed to the hard plastic kind, to minimize any noise, planner Brian Lichterman has said. The club even hosted a demonstration in June to let skeptical neighbors hear the volume of both types of paddles and balls.

Lichterman and yacht club board member David Cohen addressed the concerns in relation to the noise generated by the club’s tennis courts on the opposite side of the property, also right next to homes, at an August community workshop.

Despite almost two dozen residents’ notes of support for the plan, the Bird Key Homeowners Association also has argued the plan violates the group’s restrictions on building on the key. The club contends that is not the longstanding interpretation of the restrictions in relation to the club property, Cohen wrote in a rebuttal letter.

The Association’s Architectural Committee also reviewed and denied the plans earlier this year, but the club is proceeding with the city permitting anyway, according to documents submitted to the city.

The proposal follows a growing trend around the area in which some clubs and parks have begun converting old tennis courts or creating new courts to satisfy the demand for more pickleball. The newly renovated Longboat Key Bayfront Park, unveiled this month, includes pickleball courts, and last year Sarasota County added even more pickleball-specific courts to By-Pass Park in Venice.

City staff must still review the proposed plans for Bird Key, and they ultimately will be reviewed and voted on by both the Planning Board and City Commission.



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