Leawood to look at amending city code following complaints about pickleball noise

Pickleball has grown in popularity around Johnson County with many public courts, like this one at Meadowbrook Park. But the discussion in Leawood hinges on the use of a private tennis court for pickleball purposes. File photo.

On Monday, the Leawood City Council unanimously voted to have city staff review the city’s sports court ordinance after receiving noise complaints about a backyard pickleball court.

Background: Concerns about the ordinance were brought to the council’s attention by Councilmember Debra Filla, who said she had received complaints from residents in northern Leawood about a neighbor’s private backyard tennis court being used for pickleball.

  • “This was approved for a tennis court,” Filla said. “The sound differential for pickleball is like having a ping pong ball on steroids. It is not a soft tennis ball.”
  • She said there have also been issues with how late the court is being used at night.

Current regulations: Under the city’s current rules and regulations, a sports court permit has to receive administrative approval by the city planning director.

  • The court cannot be constructed within a front yard and has to be located a minimum of 10 feet from any rear or side lot line.
  • Additionally, no court lighting is permitted between the hours of 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Potential changes and timing: One ordinance change recommended by the council was to require that surrounding neighbors be notified of any potential sports court permits.

  • Currently, the city only notifies homeowners associations about sports court permits, said Leawood building and code enforcement director Travis Torrez.
  • Torrez also threw out the suggestion of having sports courts fall under a special use permit, which would require the plans for each one to come before the planning commission and city council in order to gain approval.
  • He said staff would be able to present the council with some new suggestions for a revised sports court ordinance within the next two months.

Getting rid of pickleball? As part of her motion to have staff look into the sports court ordinance, Filla proposed an outright ban of pickleball within Leawood, but others on the council disagreed with that idea.

  • “I understand putting some constraints on lighting and constraints on time,” Councilmember Julie Cain said. “I wouldn’t want it happening next to my backyard nonstop either… but to preclude pickleball period in the city of Leawood, I would absolutely never vote in agreement with that.”
  • Mayor Peggy Dunn agreed with Cain, saying she did not want to see it taken away from the city but understood there could be more regulations put in place.

If this sounds familiar … : Concerns about outdoor tennis courts being used as pickleball courts has been a hot topic recently.

  • Mission Woods Mayor Darrell Franklin and his wife Laurie recently 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 claim that,  due to the hard paddle and ball used in pickleball, the game “creates a much louder sound and is “materially more intrusive” than tennis, which had previously been played at the converted courts.