KIRKWOOD, Mo. – Pickleball’s popularity is growing in the St. Louis area. The sound generated by the crack of the ball on the paddle is a growing concern for residents of Kirkwood’s Osage Hills neighborhood.
“We’ve heard people say, ‘Oh, it’s no louder than a bird chirping. It’s like the sound of children playing.’ But that’s just not true,” Kirkwood resident Julie Missey said.
Missey’s home backs up to the Greenbriar Hills Country Club. For months, she and her neighbors have worked to prevent the country club from building outdoor pickleball courts on a patch of land behind their homes.
“We have all kind of neighbors who will be affected by this noise,” she said. “The club just doesn’t seem to care.”
Greenbriar Hills Country Club declined FOX 2’s request for an on-camera interview. A representative told us the club commissioned an acoustic study of the site. In a statement, the club said, “that on-site study concluded that the sound levels of the proposed project satisfy and fell well below all applicable county codes.”
The Kirkwood City Council approved Greenbriar Hills’ pickleball plans, but added one important amendment.
“The approval that was granted is only valid if the post construction sound study shows they’re actually meeting the county’s noise ordinance,” Jonathan Raiche, planning and development services coordinator for the City of Kirkwood, said.
What happens if the pickleball courts are in violation of that noise ordinance?
“We would not issue their final occupancy or final inspection approval for the courts for pickleball purposes,” Raiche said.
“The code is not appropriate for this type of sound,” acoustic engineer Lance Willis said.
Willis was hired by the neighbors who oppose the project to review Greenbriar’s plans. He said St. Louis County uses a metric that doesn’t accurately measure the quick crack produced by a pickleball paddle.
“This type of sound, sound that has this highly-impulsive characteristic, has a much greater annoyance than other sounds of the same level,” Willis said.
A St. Louis County spokesperson declined to comment on camera, but offered the following statement: “If we receive a noise complaint from Kirkwood or anyplace else in the county, we will respond by measuring the noise as described in the code. We decline to comment on any of the particulars of the Kirkwood dispute.”
Another critical component of Missey and her neighbors’ complaints is the proximity of the homes to the location of the courts.
“If you put courts too close to houses, you’re almost guaranteed to get noise complaints,” she said.
In April, Park City, Utah amended its land management code to address the unique noise produced by pickleball play. The amendment, posted on the city’s website, requires outdoor pickleball courts feature a minimum setback of no less than 150 feet from residential property lines.
Missey said Greenbriar’s pickleball courts would be located less than 60 feet from her home.
“All they care about is that they want their pickleball courts in that exact spot,” she said.
Missey’s biggest fear is how her 16-year-old-son, James, who has Down syndrome and autism, will react to the noise.
“We have no idea how being exposed to the repetitive, highly-impulsive noise of the crack of a pickleball paddle will affect him,” she said. “It really concerns us.”
What happens next? Once the courts are built, an independent secondary sound study will be conducted. Until then, Greenbriar Hills Country Club says pickleball will not be played on the court until it satisfies the county’s noise ordinance. We’ll keep you posted on what happens.
Greenbriar Hills Country Club statement by KevinSeanHeld on Scribd