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Newmarket defers on final location for new pickleball facility

Some residents are concerned about potential impacts like noise, parking, privacy for facility proposed for George Richardson Park

Newmarket council deferred on finalizing the location for a new pickleball facility as residents near George Richardson Park expressed concern about the possible impacts.

Council gave direction for staff to start planning for the facility Dec. 11 but deferred on the location, requiring another resolution and approval from council before that can go ahead. After neighbouring residents raised concerns about the proposed 14 to 20-court facility at George Richardson Park, council decided to push back that approval.

Area Councillor Jane Twinney said it gives her time to consult with residents and talk through the measures the town will use to address issues like noise.

“It’s completely possible and reasonable for us to come back in January with a follow-up report that really does detail exactly how we could locate courts within the park, to maximize the distance away from residents, as well as more detailed plans around noise mitigation," she said.

Staff brought forward the proposal at the Dec. 4 committee of the whole meeting. After finding issues with a previously proposed location at Lions Park, staff said it carefully looked through all the possible locations and found George Richardson Park was the most suitable, based on factors like space, parking capacity and how much it displaces other recreational facilities or amenities.  

Both members of the Newmarket Pickleball Club and residents near George Richardson Park on Bayview Parkway came to the council chambers to address the proposal.

Newmarket Pickleball Club secretary-treasurer Stuart Leigh spoke to the history of the club and how much it has grown in the past several months. He said the club feels that town staff, including director of recreation and culture Colin Service, can find solutions to any concerns. 

“The members of the Newmarket Pickleball Club truly appreciate the efforts the town is making to improve pickleball infrastructure,” Leigh said. “We are confident that these concerns will be satisfactorily addressed by Colin Service and his professional staff.”

However, three residents who live by George Richardson Park spoke separately about their misgivings for the proposal. The council agenda also included letters of concern from other residents. 

Kneil Dumont said he felt there was a lack of communication on the measure, with him only finding out through outreach efforts Dec. 9. He said it should be deferred for more residents to hear about it and have a chance to respond.

He said that parking could be an issue with how busy the park is, and was worried about privacy with the extra traffic.

Resident Craig Bates questioned the choice of location, noting there are other fields on the park farther away from nearby housing. 

He also spoke to the pace of the proposal and consultation.

“This is just being rammed through, it appears,” he said. “It needs a little more thought.”

Some residents used stronger words. Resident Mark Collis wrote to council and said he objects to "this proposed eyesore and noise pollution outside of my backyard."

"I certainly do not want to see this and hear the noise of people and cars coming and going until midnight," he said. "How things have changed for the worse again in this town."

Service said other locations were examined, but there are not many places in Newmarket available.  George Richardson Park emerged as the best location based on the criteria. He further said the field selection was based on the park being on a floodplain, which crossed out the possibility of other fields.

He spoke at length about noise mitigation measures that could be brought forward, such as plantings and acoustic fencing. If needed, Service said the town could examine year-round bubbling as opposed to winter-only bubbling, which would mean the only sound being “ambient white noise” of the bubble’s systems.

“We recognize that no matter where we put a facility, we’re going to need to look at these kind of noise mitigation measures,” he said. 

Newmarket Mayor John Taylor said he is certain the town can find a way to make the location work and address noise concerns.

“I’m very confident we can bring the perceived noise level of pickleball down to a very manageable, very low-impact scenario through the measures,” Taylor said. “I will come to your backyard and visit you in year one, if necessary. And if it’s not adequate, we’ll do more.” 

As for parking, Service said there is capacity there, but it is something staff would monitor after the facility opens, with possibilities to add if needed.

A future report will come back to council in the new year before George Richardson Park is confirmed as the location.