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Community members listen to a discussion about pickleball noise during the March 28 Apple Valley City Council meeting.

Sound reduction barrier part of approved actions

The Apple Valley City Council was split when it approved a resolution to an amendment on March 28, in an attempt to resolve an ongoing dispute about the level of noise coming from the outdoor pickleball courts at Hayes Park.

The council members had different preferences for the hours of play.

The council voted 3-2 to direct city staff to install a 10-foot sound attenuation fabric barrier on the pickleball court fencing at a cost not to exceed $15,000; to set the hours of play at 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday and conduct a study to see if the sound reduction barrier brings the noise down to ambient levels.

If the sound barrier does not effectively reduce the noise, then the hours of play will be modified to be 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. There would be no weekday play from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. or after 7:30 p.m.

Per the council’s vote, staff must also research an electronic control system for the court gate to enforce the hours of play; explore the feasibility and cost of constructing replacement pickleball courts elsewhere in the city and report back to the City Council by Aug. 8, and solicit input from Hayes Park residential neighbors if a decision is made to move the courts.

Pickleball history

Some residents living near the courts on the south side of the park have said the noise has been a problem since the courts were put in a few years ago.

“We’re really happy people are keeping active. We’re really happy the park is being used as a park, we love being around the park. The problem obviously has been the noise, and the noise generation has been a struggle,” Westley Dayus, one of the Hayes Park neighbors, told the council on March 28.

The City Council last discussed the issue during a Feb. 14 work session that was attended by residents living near the park and pickleball players. Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland said on March 28 that she recently met with some of those neighbors to discuss ideas for resolving the issue after she was unable to attend the Feb. 14 work session.

Parks and Recreation Director Barry Bernstein said since the pickleball courts were put in, the city has gotten a variety of comments from nearby residents. Negative comments have included no specific times for playing; yelling, screaming and inappropriate language by the players; noise from pickleball volley being too loud and that they can’t use their backyards. Others have given positive comments such as the noise not affecting them; they enjoy the activity and that pickleball is good for the senior population.

According to the city, ESI Engineering was hired in 2018 to conduct a pickleball noise study to determine if the noise generated met state noise requirements. The study indicated that the noise levels met state requirements.

The city researched different methods to reduce the sound impact to the neighborhood such as sound diffusing fabric on the court fence; a natural vegetation barrier; modified play and requiring the use of a sound reduction ball during specific periods of the day. During the 2018 season, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee experimented with some rules in an attempt to mitigate the noise including specified hours for pickleball play on weekdays and weekends, and court lights not being available.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee revisited the issue again on July 19, 2018, and approved a recommendation to be forwarded on to the City Council for discussion. The recommendation proposed having weekday play from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. There would be no play permitted between 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. and after 7:30 p.m. The weekend play hours would remain unchanged.

ESI conducted a second study to outline options to reduce the pickleball noise. The study indicated that an eight-foot or a 10-foot sound barrier would help bring the noise down to ambient background noise.

Multiple choices

The meeting packet for March 28 included two pickleball-related resolutions for the City Council’s consideration. One was the Park and Recreation Advisory Committee’s recommendation while the other was a resolution brought forward by City Council Member Tom Goodwin.

Goodwin’s resolution was similar to the final action taken by the council. It proposed directing staff to install at 10-foot noise attenuation fabric barrier at a cost not to exceed $15,000; to set the daily hours of play from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. after the barrier is completed and to complete a feasibility study on possible construction of pickleball courts elsewhere in Hayes Park, at Johnny Cake Ridge Park West south of Eastview High School or any other potentially suitable locations, and to report back to the City Council no later than Aug. 8.

The council began with discussing the Parks and Recreation Commission’s recommendation after a motion was made and seconded. During that discussion, Hamann-Roland outlined some of the ideas that she and the Hayes Park neighbors had come up with.

Hamann-Roland said the ideas included installing the 10-foot fabric sound barrier at a cost not to exceed $15,000, directing staff to post the play times for pickleball and to have staff update the sound study to see if the sound barrier would lower the pickleball noise by 10 decibels.

If the sound reduction barrier works, then the residents were open to pickleball play times being 9 a.m to 7 p.m. But if the barrier was not effective, then the city would revert back to what the Parks and Recreation Commission had originally recommended, Hamann-Roland said.

Dayus was one of the residents present at the meeting with the mayor and confirmed Hamann-Roland’s summary of what was discussed. He said he and some of the other residents were willing to live with longer pickleball playing times and the noise if the end result was that the existing Hayes Park pickleball courts would be relocated and the sound reduction barrier is effective.

“There needs to be a little give and take from both sides,” he said.

Dayus said they also talked about looking into an electronic system to control the pickleball gate and having the park neighbors be involved if a decision is made to move the courts.

Pickleball players also addressed the council. One resident said meeting neighbors without the pickleball players being there was unfair. He invited Hamann-Roland to come speak to pickleball players at a court.

“You are not going to please all of the people all time. You guys are really stuck in a tough spot,” he said.

Goodwin asked the council for a chance to discuss his resolution. Council Member Clint Hooppaw later suggested amending the original motion to pass the Parks and Recreation Committee’s recommendation because Goodwin’s resolution and Hamann-Roland’s meeting with the neighbors proposed similar solutions.

Hamann-Roland, Hooppaw and Council Member Ruth Grendahl voted in favor of the amendments and Parks and Recreation Committee’s resolution. Goodwin and Council Member John Bergman were the dissenting votes.

Bergman and Goodwin wanted to tweak the weekday hours of play to be 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. after the amendment to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission resolution was moved and seconded. Hamann-Roland, Hooppaw and Grendahl indicated they were supportive of the 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. times.

“The residents of this community now will have an opportunity, they’ll go elsewhere to go play. They paid for this. We’re restricting them,” Bergman said. “We built something that was really good and everybody came to it.”

Grendahl said the neighbors near Hayes Park have been fair and came to the table to work with the city and pickleball players.

Patty Dexter can be reached at patty.dexter@ecm-inc.com.

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