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The town’s plan for new pickleball courts notched another win last week with approval by the Zoning Commission of the Main Street Connection Park’s new site plan. If the town meeting on Aug. 13 (after press time) approved the $80,000 appropriation needed to build them, concrete could be poured as soon as this fall.
Pickleball is a racket sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong; two pickleball courts fit in the space of one tennis court.
Signs that the project’s support is strong even showed up at the Aug. 6 Zoning Commission meeting. Commission Chairman Robert Friedmann announced, as the public hearing opened, that he would recuse himself from the vote. Not only had he played pickleball that very Monday morning at the town’s Trask Road Park, he said he also had signed a petition supporting the town’s pickleball plan.
The Zoning Commission already agreed late last month that substituting pickleball courts for bocce courts at the Main Street Connection Park would be a minor modification to the site plan approved in December 2016. At last week’s Zoning Commission meeting, the town had been asked to present a revised site plan, on which the exact footprint and location of the proposed pickleball courts be shown.
First Selectman Carl Fortuna, Jr., spoke to the changes and to the new plan and explained that funding is in place should the project win public approval at Town Meeting. The Board of Finance previously approved $45,000 and the town has $35,000 left in STEAP grant funds. The cost for three post-tension concrete courts is $77,000.
“Concrete could get poured this fall, but the courts would not be finished due to a lining issue,” said Fortuna.
Of the sport of pickleball, Fortuna said, “This is new to me. There is a current demand for this right now. [Parks & Recreation Director] Ray Allen is trying to find space. This is an activity that will bring people downtown; our shops and retail will get more traffic.”
During the winter months, the town’s Parks & Recreation Department could only reserve two indoor pickleball play slots for the pickleball league at the Sheffield Street Recreation Center. With players wanting more opportunities to play, both in winter and summer months, Allen began to look into different options. He approached Fortuna about changing the recreation facility the town had planned for the Main Street Connection Park.
The park’s revised site plan, as submitted, shows the pickleball courts located between the end of the new public parking lot and the beginning of the emergency communications tower’s fenced enclosure. Also on the plan are routes for electrical conduit. Fortuna told the commission that there is neither a town plan nor funding for installation of court lighting at this time. However, to allow it to be installed in the future, the conduit should be put in place now, when the site is being graded and disrupted.
Zoning Enforcement Officer Chris Costa told the Zoning Commission that, in reviewing the new site plan, she determined the lot would have 45 percent coverage in a zone where 80 percent coverage is allowed. Also, she said installation of lighting is allowable in the zone where the park is located.
Fortuna reminded the commission that the town had negotiated an easement with SBC Communications/AT&T to allow a pedestrian path to be built along the northern edge of the communications tower enclosure. As a result, in the future, as shown on the site plan, the town could develop and upgrade a planned park and pedestrian connection between Main Street and Lynde Street along the town parcel’s northern lot line.
If the pickleball project funding was approved earlier this week, Fortuna said construction of the new courts would begin this fall and courts would be ready for public play in spring 2019.
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