Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals will be hearing a request to appeal the decision of the interim building commissioner to not issue a cease and desist order for the pickleball courts at Lawrence Middle School.
Pickleball noise has been an ongoing issue since the courts first opened in November 2020. Victoria Dalmas, an attorney, represents the residents of three of properties abutting the school: Rob and Stephanie Mastroianni of 120 Lakeview Avenue, Jon Churchill of 75 Lakeview Avenue, and Michael B. Galasso of 107 Lakeview Avenue. In a letter to the board on July 26, Ms. Dalmas requested a cease and desist order for the pickleball courts at the middle school located at 113 Lakeview Avenue, which she says produce “ongoing injurious noise levels… [that are] substantially preventing my clients from quiet and peaceful enjoyment of their respective homes during pickleball play hours.” An acoustic analysis study was done for the affected sites, and the concluding suggestions of that study were to either remove or relocate the courts or put up sound barriers along the fence.
In a letter to Ms. Dalmas dated September 29, Interim Building Commissioner and Zoning Enforcement Officer Eladio Gore said that the zoning office would not be taking action at this time, due to the time of year limiting playing hours at the courts and a schedule and signage were posted both online and at the courts, respectively.
Additionally, Mr. Gore wrote that the recreation department had requested capital funds at Town Meeting in November for a soundproof barrier at the perimeter of the court, but the request was struck down at the November 15 meeting after a majority voted to remove the requested $50,000 from the budget.
In an October 12 letter to Mr. Gore and zoning administrator Noreen Stockman, Ms. Dalmas said she believed Mr. Gore “erred in his reasoning,” and she asks that the board consider reversing his decision and issuing the requested cease and desist order. She also says that the courts, which she says are a “problematic noisemaker,” are in violation of both the town’s zoning and non-zoning bylaw governing noise levels and are also a violation of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Noise Policy standards.
All of these properties are in close proximity to the courts and, according to Ms. Dalmas’s October 12 letter, all of the residents involved in the appeal have expressed their concerns repeatedly since the courts were introduced in November 2020. In that letter, Ms. Dalmas also expressed dissatisfaction with Mr. Gore’s acknowledgement of the problem but lack of action.
“The [zoning enforcement officer], instead of taking forward enforcement (by cease and desist order) until such time as the pickleball noise violation is resolved, focused alternatively on questionable sound attenuation measures already taken (or proposed to be taken) by the Town’s Recreation Department, discussed more fully below, with added mention of there being decreased pickleball activity going forward due to seasonal change and the Lawrence School being back in session,” Ms. Dalmas wrote. “In other words, the pickleball noise violation will therefore continue to negatively impact my clients on a daily basis until some uncertain future time.”
Ms. Dalmas said that the implemented schedule and added signage have not done anything to curb the noise, and that there have been numerous instances of pickleball players expressing “utter disregard” for the revised rules and “hostility when intermittent enforcement action may occur.”
She also touched upon the proposed soundproofing of the courts, a project that was denied capital funding from the town at Town Meeting. Although the letter is dated a month before the meeting took place, Ms. Dalmas said that her clients were not entirely confident that soundproofing would be a satisfactory solution, and even went as far as to say it would potentially make things worse because some of her clients live as close as 40 feet from the courts.
Ms. Dalmas concluded her letter by saying that her clients appreciate the actions of the recreation committee to find a new, more suitable location for the courts, but something must be done in the interim. The matter will go to a public hearing before the zoning board of appeals to consider.