CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. (WECT) – It’s been called the fastest growing sport in the country, and players of the game are passionate about it — it’s pickleball — and it’s likely playing at a tennis court near you.
In Carolina Beach, the sport has a loyal following, but it’s a new pickleball court tucked away in the back of a neighborhood that has caught the attention of some neighbors and the town.
When Terry and Kelly Wyckoff bought a vacant lot across the street from their home, they didn’t purchase it to build a new waterfront home.
“My husband wanted it primarily for the boat dock and so we purchased it,” Kelly Wyckoff said.
Already having a home, and really only wanting the dock, the Wyckoffs came up with an idea for the land after some discussion with neighbors — community gardens. They planted crops like peppers, okra, basil, and sweet potatoes, landscaped the area with stones and plants, and even installed some free neighborhood library boxes and opened it to their neighbors for use.
But it was the next thing that caught the attention of a few neighbors.
“Beyond that, we dabbled in pickleball so we thought, ‘why don’t we do that because the courts in the town are overrun, you can’t get on, the people are very competitive?’ We just wanted to have a space where we could exercise, have some fun, invite our friends, neighbors,” she said.
So, with the success of the gardens already complete, the Wyckoffs had a concrete slab poured and striped for pickleball courts; however, they did so without getting the right permission from the Town of Carolina Beach.
While pickleball courts are not specifically mentioned in the town’s zoning ordinances, tennis courts are. But in the R-2 district where the court was built, the Town Council actually has to get involved.
“In order to have a pickleball court or something that is a principal use on the property that is not a single-family home, which is the primary use, you would have to go through a process which is called a conditional zoning district,” Carolina Beach Planning Director Jeremy Hardison said.
When the courts were finished back in May, a neighbor sent an email to the Town asking them if the courts were even allowed. In response, the Town issued a notice of violation for working without permits, and in early June, an application for a conditional zoning was submitted.
The process of getting a conditional zoning district permit approved means the applicants have to hold community meetings where neighbors within 500 feet of the lot get to meet with the owners and discuss the plans. The Wyckoffs actually held two of these meetings and, for the most part, comments were positive according to the family, as well as seen in written comments sent via email.
There were a few comments opposing the court, mostly citing things like noise issues and the added traffic that the courts would bring to the neighborhood; however, Kathleen Both, who lives across the street from the courts, says those concerns are unfounded.
“No, we’ve had a big gathering, everybody walks here or they bicycle so it has just been very low-key,” she said.
There are also concerns about conveniences and restrictions put in place by the neighborhood’s HOA.
In fact, the first thing in Pleasure Cay Subidivision’s restrictions reads, “All lots in said subdivision shall be used for single-family, one or two-story residential purposes only.”
But, when asked about the HOA, Kelly Wyckoff said, “Apparently, the HOA has not been very active and it kind of got brought up at a time where if you’re going to throw that standard then you have a lot of other things that you have got to address.”
The Planning and Zoning Board will meet on Thursday to discuss the permit request, and then in October, Town Council will have to make the ultimate decision.
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