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Island pickleballers serve legal ultimatum in rally for right to play

Perplexed pickleball players say sound testing in North Saanich shows noise mitigation measures work
Sound testing equipment was in use at Carnarvon Park on May 15 to determine the effectiveness of noise mitigation efforts on pickleball courts.

Vancouver Island pickleballers are continuing the fight to save their North Saanich courts from closure on multiple fronts, with the latest effort including the threat of legal action.

“We have to put more pressure on this mayor and council because they're not representing us,” said Brad Watson of the Saanich Peninsula Pickleball Association (SPPA) on Tuesday (July 9) morning.

North Saanich council voted on April 29 to close the Wain Park pickleball courts, citing noise complaints from neighbours, as well as bullying and harassment of neighbours by players. 

In an effort to prove sound mitigation can work and try to convince councillors to change their minds, the SPPA organized sound testing in mid-May at Carnarvon Park, which has special fence coverings installed to reduce noise problems.

Now, an "ad-hoc" legal committee of local pickleball players have retained a law firm to ante up the pressure. On July 3, they presented a letter to the mayor and council that gives a deadline of July 19 before lawyers file a petition in court asking a judge to intervene.

The petition will ask a judge to rescind the council's decision and conduct a judicial review of the process, arguing the public was not allowed to adequately participate in the decision.

“They say that they've included numerous public consultations and feedback sessions with people in the pickleball community,” Watson said. “There has been none of that.”

The draft petition also says the petitioner has evidence Mayor Peter Jones had said as far back as May 2023 that he intended to “severely restrict” pickleball at Wain court, using this as evidence the outcome was pre-determined.

Jones could not be reached for comment on Tuesday morning (July 9).

Meanwhile, the SPPA prepared a report on the sound testing at Carnarvon, and had local pickleball advocate Frank Gee present the findings at the Monday (July 8) council meeting.

Part of the issue with pickleball is the frequency of the sound as well as the volume. According to previous arguments made by Jones to justify the closure, pickleball causes sound at frequencies known to be more irritating. He compared it to the sound of a garbage truck backing up.

Gee’s said the testing showed the fencing to be effective across all frequencies.

The study found noise was reduced by the fence coverings from roughly 51 decibels down to about 43, which according the report equals a sound reduction of almost 50 per cent. They also tested sound reduction using quieter paddles, with similar results.

“The study shows clear evidence of sound reduction,” Gee told councillors.

Gee presented a mitigation plan to councillors using the same sound fencing as Carnarvon in the same orientation, with three sides covered and one open to let the noise reflect out into an open field. 

Carnarvon has a similar layout to Wain Park with homes on one side and an open field in another.

The cost for the fence coverings according to Gee's presentation is about $35,000, and he offered to aid with fundraising and to organize volunteers to help install it.

About the Author: Mark Page

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