Wilmette Village Council has taken a first step towards allowing the construction of two additional paddle tennis courts in West Park, although some neighbors remain opposed to the idea.
At the end of their nearly five-hour meeting on April 26, village administrators accepted a series of special use requests from the Wilmette Park District for the West Park Paddle Ball Extension, located at 3513 Lake Avenue. .
The issue is expected to come to the village council at the May 10 meeting for a final vote.
Trustees agreed to a scaled-down Park District proposal that included adding two new paddle tennis courts instead of four, bringing the total number of courts to eight in total. Additionally, there will be an expansion of the existing warming hut and the paddle tennis courts will be open until 11 p.m., when a local paddle tennis league is in season.
The initial approval also came with a series of conditions regarding sound, lighting and parking.
At the April meeting, the park district and village officials agreed to a series of other conditions regarding cleaning the warming hut and notifying the village of the paddle ball league schedule.
Administrators listened to lengthy testimonials from supporters and detractors alike, as some residents wanted to see greater recreational opportunities, others feared the impact on the area with additional traffic, noise and light.
Some administrators expressed reservations, but ultimately voted for initial approval.
“I tend to think that the benefits here, which are many and substantial, will far outweigh any noise or additional presence that just two courts would create,” administrator Peter Barrow said.
“Some of these things will actually improve what residents are experiencing today,” added Councilor Kathy Dodd.
The Park District’s previous plan called for the creation of four additional paddle tennis courts and eight pickleball courts. However, this plan was met with strong opposition, and the village’s zoning appeal board voted 6-0 in early April to recommend that the plan be denied.
After the ZBA vote, the Park District came back with a concept that included building just two additional courts.
The Park District’s proposal led to the formation of Friends of West Park, a group opposed to the Park District’s plans.
“Letting them expand their facility by a third and keep the 11 p.m. closing time incorrectly extended is an insult to the neighbors,” Friends of West Park co-organizer Patrick O’Gara told Pioneer Press.
Park District Executive Director Steve Wilson wrote in an email to Pioneer Press after the meeting that the Park District hopes the new courts will be fully installed for the next paddle ball season, which he said will start from mid-September to the end of September if they receive from the village commission.
Under village zoning laws, a special use permit is required to allow for the proposed expansion due to the potential impact on nearby properties, according to community development manager John Adler.
Daniel I. Dorfman is a freelancer.