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Pickleball politics and paperwork causing headaches around town

Park City is conducting a community survey on Pickleball through February 16th. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Matt York/AP
Park City is conducting a community survey on Pickleball through February 16th. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Even though it’s the middle of winter, pickleball is on a lot of people’s minds, as Park City officials look at regulating private courts - and one homeowner’s court is in limbo after a paperwork mistake at City Hall.

Joe and Kelly Cronley have lived on Equestrian Court in Park Meadows since 2006. The couple rebuilt their home in 2021, complete with new landscaping and a sport court with space for multiple sports, including pickleball.

A Park City Planning Department staffer approved the family’s plans last summer, but Joe Cronley says when a city building inspector came to finalize the project later in the fall, they had an unpleasant surprise.

“They said, ‘oh, well this sport court should have never been approved,’" Cronley says. "And then we’re like, ‘well, shoulda, coulda, woulda. It was approved.’ They said if you’re going to use it for sports and pickleball, then it needs a conditional use permit.”

Sport courts built at homes are considered private recreational facilities in Park City and require a conditional use permit.

Cronley says his family doesn’t consider themselves pickleball enthusiasts, and had they known a special permit was needed to build a court, they may not have bothered.

In January, the Cronleys’ sport court permit was considered by the Park City Planning Commission and approved for all uses except pickleball until the city completes a review of how the sport fits into its land management code.

Cronley says the city has acknowledged the error in private conversations. When contacted by KPCW, Park City Communications Manager Clayton Scrivner said the city doesn’t “comment substantively on pending applications.”

The Cronleys spent around $40,000 installing their sport court. If they don’t get their permit approved, they won’t be allowed to play pickleball on it.

Pickleball has experienced a massive boom in popularity in recent years, spurring the city to explore building more public courts and an increased interest in private residential courts.

Although at-home pickleball courts do fall under the current rules for private recreational facilities, the issue is the sport is considered by some to be particularly noisy. The game is played on a hard surface with hard balls and hard paddles, and some residents worry that noise from private courts would be a nuisance to surrounding properties.

The city is currently administering a community pickleball survey and hosting two virtual open houses on the sport next week. Some of the regulations being considered for pickleball include requiring special noise reducing equipment and stricter requirements for where a court can be built.

Cronley says he supports measures like minimum lot sizes and requiring courts to be a certain distance away from neighboring property lines. On the other hand, he thinks requiring special fences to reduce noise or introducing noise complaint systems specific to pickleball would be government overreach.

“The other thought is what about basketball?" he says. "There’s a lot of basketball hoops around town and they make noise as well. I’m just wondering why is the same standard not being proposed for basketball? We live right next to the North 40 fields where there’s soccer and lacrosse and other activities going on. You can get carried away and there’s no way that the city could enforce all of this.”

When it comes to his family’s court, he says he’s not losing sleep over whether or not he’ll be able to play pickleball at home this summer.

“I think it will be interesting to see how it plays out," says Cronley. "I do think we have intelligent people in the right places on planning commission and in the city council and our mayor. I’m confident that they’re gonna make a good decision on this.” 

The Park City pickleball survey is open through February 16th. The survey and more information on the virtual pickleball open house events can be found here.

Sean Higgins covers all things Park City and is the Saturday Weekend Edition host at KPCW. Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.