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By EMILIA TEASDALE

CHATHAM—At the regular Village Board meeting on July 10 the board tabled a motion to put temporary pickleball lines on the tennis courts at Jones Avenue. The action followed a closed-door board discussion with the board’s attorney.

Mayor John Howe said that the board would be bringing the issue to the Village Planning Board for review. The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for July 24 at 7 p.m. at the Tracy Memorial/Village Hall.

At the beginning of this week’s board meeting (July 10), Mayor Howe announced that the Town of Chatham had received a $100,000 grant for pickleball courts at Crellin Park, a town park on Route 66 outside the village. Mayor Howe said that currently “there is no time frame” for when the new courts would be ready. There are already pickleball and tennis courts at Crellin Park, as well as in the Town of Ghent (for Ghent residents only). Pickleball is also played inside at the Morris Memorial, which is run by an association but open to local groups.

Chatham Town Board member Vance Pitkin was at the village meeting and reported that design work for the town court project was being donated and is “moving ahead pretty quickly.”

Mayor Howe said the grant and the pickleball courts in the town are a “great thing” and would be helpful. He said a few times during the meeting that if the Village Board approves putting pickleball lines at the tennis courts on Jones Avenue they would be temporary as the Crellin Park courts are being upgraded.

The Village Board held a special meeting on June 28 to hear from residents about the pickleball lines at Jones Avenue. Over 30 residents attended that meeting at the Chatham Fire House and many who spoke at the meeting live near the courts.

Mayor Howe began that meeting by reviewing the issue but said he would not rehash the discussion about pickleball that came up at an earlier meeting in June.

Residents had presented the board with a petition, dated May 30, requesting “that pickleball lines be added to the tennis courts on Jones Avenue, and that there be a clear understanding that pickleball is permitted there.” The board put the pickleball lines on the agenda for discussion at the June 12 Village Board meeting, which Mayor Howe said at the June 28 meeting had a crowd “larger than this.”

When Mayor Howe opened the discussion to the public on June 28, there were several residents who worried about the noise of adding pickleball to the already busy court and many stressed the traffic issues.

Jones Avenue, off of Austerlitz Street, is a residential street that ends in the courts and a building that was once a doctor’s office. At the meeting, residents discussed that building becoming the library for the Shaker Museum, which is building a new museum and center at an old building at 5 Austerlitz Street. One resident said that parking options might be changing at the building on Jones Avenue if the Shaker Museum staff moves in. With the change, and adding pickleball courts which can accommodate more players than tennis, one resident asked about where those people will park.

Stephen Piazza, a Jones Avenue resident, said “It’s a quiet street” and that he’s “really against having even more traffic.” He said he petitioned the village to put a sidewalk on Austerlitz Street due to the safety of people walking up the busy road. Several residents talked about how dangerous it is turning out of Jones Avenue onto Austerlitz Street.

Several people pointed out that there are multiple options to play pickleball in the area. “This is not an emergency,” said Mr. Piazza.

One Austerlitz Street resident said he supported having the option to play both at the Jones Avenue site. “Aren’t these meant to be community courts?” he said.

There were also two tennis pros at the meeting, one who supported making the change and one who did not. They both addressed the board for a long time about the issue and the courts. Eli Armstrong, the pro who uses the Jones Avenue courts to teach, said that he would help raise money for the pickleball courts at Crellin. “We’re not saying we have a problem with pickleball, they just don’t need to be on every court,” he said.

Kyle Schermerhorn, a local pro who teaches tennis and pickleball, said there is high demand in the area for pickleball and “it’s a great sport.” He didn’t think the pickleball lines would bother tennis players. “I want everyone to get along,” he said.

To close the special meeting on June 28, Mayor Howe said with this new information the board will, at the suggestion of resident and tennis player Gavin Preuss, convene a small group of residents, both tennis and pickleball players and Jones Avenue residents, to find a compromise. At the July 10 regular board meeting, Mayor Howe said the committee has not been created since the board found out that the town had received the grant to upgrade its courts at Crellin Park.

The motion the board moved but then tabled at the July 10 meeting said that temporary lines would be removed at “such time as the Crellin Park [project] come to fruition” and pickleball would be limited to the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Trustee Peter Minahan said at the July meeting that he would like to test the noise issue with pickleball which concerned some neighbors. And Mayor Howe said that the Village Board needs to deal with the intersection.

During the discussion Trustee Melony Spock said that the courts at Jones Avenue “were not just for tennis” and Trustee Ralph O’Mara-Garcia said “the pickleball lines will not destroy the courts.”

The next Village Board meeting will be Monday, August 14 at 7 p.m. at the Tracey Memorial. For information on meetings go to villageofchatham.com

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email eteasdale@columbiapaper.com

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