In Leawood, Kansas, individuals contemplating the construction of private sports courts in their backyards will now have to adhere to new requirements. These requirements were established following numerous community discussions and are not the first of its type nationwide with the growing sport and its continued complaints with noise.
At a recent meeting, the Leawood Planning Commission approved an amendment to the city’s development ordinance that added new guidelines to the approval process for building new tennis or pickleball courts.
Stemming from multiple complaints last year, when residents raised concerns about noise and bright lights coming from residential pickleball courts after hours, the Planning Commission conducted several work sessions. Before the amendment, residential sports courts required a particular use permit if they had lighting.
However, the new amendment now mandates that residents must inform their neighbors by mail within a 200-feet radius if they want to construct a sports court. The amendment also requires that the court be screened from neighbors by evergreen landscaping, and the midpoint distance of the court must be closer to the owner’s house than any neighbor’s house, with a minimum setback of 20 feet from all property lines.
Council member Debra Filla has raised concerns about the sports court ordinance, citing complaints from residents in northern Leawood about a neighbor’s private backyard tennis court being used for pickleball. Currently, the regulations state that a sports court permit must receive administrative approval from the city planning director. Additionally, the court cannot be constructed within a front yard and must be located at least 10 feet from any rear or side lot line, and no court lighting is permitted between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
The council also recommended notifying by mail any surrounding neighbors within 200 feet of any potential sports court permits. This would change the city currently advising homeowners associations about sports court permits.
Leawood Building and Code Enforcement Director Travis Torrez suggested that sports courts should fall under a special use permit, requiring the plans for each one to come before the planning commission and city council for approval. Staff will present the council with suggestions for a revised sports court ordinance within the next two months.
Filla proposed an outright ban on pickleball within Leawood as a solution for the continued complaints. Mayor Peggy Dunn acknowledged that pickleball should not be removed from the city but emphasized the importance of placing more regulations to keep the community happy.
Similar concerns have been raised by Mission Woods Mayor Darrell Franklin and his wife Laurie, who filed a lawsuit seeking a court order to stop play at several pickleball courts at the Mission Hills Country Club near their home.
The couple claims that the game “creates a much louder sound and is materially more intrusive” than tennis, which had previously been played at the converted courts.
Overall, residents of Leawood must now adhere to new guidelines when considering building private sports courts in their backyards, as concerns regarding noise and bright lights have led to increased regulations in the community.
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