Ocoee City Commission slices down pickleball development

The City Commission denied a special exception for a proposed 44-court pickleball facility near West Colonial Drive and South Clarke Road.

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The Ocoee City Commission voted unanimously to deny Vasant Sports’ special-exception request regarding the city’s zoning regulations for 25 outdoor pickleball courts of its proposed 44-total pickleball court development near West Colonial Drive and South Clarke Road. 

Following a presentation from the project manager, the commission opened the hearing up to public comment, and various residents spoke against the development. 

“I do not support the rezoning of this property to allow for a commercial outdoor recreational facility,” The Hammocks homeowners association president Kelly Walsh said. “This is not about a few pickleball courts, like what you might find in an HOA or park. This is about the potential for large-scale intrusive noise, which threatens to disrupt our residents’ quality of life.”

Another resident of the area near the proposed site for the project pointed to the negative impact the nearby facility would have on the quality of life of residents. 

“I just want to start by saying that I have no issues with pickleball,” Lisa Stinson said. “I do have an issue with the noise that it’s going to create. So, I’m here today to express my strong opposition about the rezoning. … The sharp percussive pop, pop, pop sounds of a paddle, along with the players vocalizations, the cheering, the shouting disrupt nearby environments, and there have been hundreds of complaints all over the city, all over the country about this noise.

“The proposed facility is substantial,” she said. “This will subject our neighborhood, other neighborhoods and surrounding businesses (with) up to 15 hours of repetitive high-frequency noise every day. … With our area’s unique topography; with its trees, wetlands and retention areas, it will act as an acoustical amplifier, intensifying the noise levels from court activities and make it a challenge for everybody locally to concentrate and relax or enjoy their homes.”

Ocoee Development Services Director Mike Rumer said the nearest home from its patio to the nearest portion of the proposed pickleball building would be almost 1/8 mile. That distance also doesn’t consider the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation to reverse the placement of courts, according to Rumer, that would make the distance more than 1/8 mile to the nearest home. 

Sravan Tummala, the project manager, responded to concerns about the noise. 

“We are also planning to put some noise barrier equipment in the facility, even on the outdoor courts, so that mesh actually absorbs some of the noise,” Tummala said. “Also, we agreed to consider the option of moving the outdoor courts to the south of the property and the covered and indoor courts to the north of the property, so the distance between the residential area and the outdoor courts is going to be more than 800 feet. 

“Also, we talked about reducing the hours of operation depending on the demand of the players … and let all the players play only on the indoor courts after 8 p.m.,” Tummala said. “We are open for any kind of suggestions that we get from the residents or even anybody in this room to reduce the noise level.”

Another issue brought up during public comment was the traffic the facility, in concert with the new Wawa gas station that is being built in the area, would cause.

“Has there been a DOT study requested to (understand the) anticipated traffic congestion due to both the Wawa and the pickleball courts going in the same area?” Ocoee resident William Cordell asked. “Is the city preparing proactively for the resulting delays, or will that just be whatever it’ll be and they’ll have to deal with at a later time? All of this is going to impact not only homeowners in the close proximity but (also) everybody who has to drive down Clarke Road, take Colonial or get on the 408.”

Commissioner Rosemary Wilsen backed residents who spoke during public comment.

“Noise is the issue — what we would have to live with in that neighborhood,” Wilsen said. “I did one look at some pickleball facilities over the weekend. They are loud (and) not as large as the one that you’re planning.”

Following the vote, Mayor Rusty Johnson’s comments showed there’s still hope for this project moving forward.

“Let’s see if we can get together with them and work this out,” he said.

In other commission news
  • Two proclamations were read at the May 7 meeting of the Ocoee City Commission. First, Mayor Rusty Johnson read a proclamation that retroactively recognized May 2, 2024, as National Day of Prayer in Ocoee. Commissioner Scott Kennedy read a proclamation that declared May 15, 2024, National Peace Officers Memorial Day and May 12-18, 2024, as National Police Week in Ocoee.

  • The five-item consent agenda passed unanimously. The approvals include giving city staff the go-ahead to award grants to nine Ocoee neighborhoods as part of the city’s Neighborhood Matching Grant Program that seeks to assist residents with making improvements to their neighborhoods. Along with the grants, the city also approved awarding a $555,068.27 contract to Garcia Civil Contractors for drainage ditch improvements on the north side of Thornebrooke Drive.

  • The commission read six ordinances for the first time during the meeting. Of the six, four were annexations of properties, while the other two were both dual requests to amend the small-scale comprehensive plan and rezone the future land use of the specific property. The six ordinances will be open to discussion from the commissioner and the public at the commission’s May 21 meeting.



Sam Albuquerque

A native of João Pessoa, Brazil, Sam Albuquerque moved in 1997 to Central Florida as a kid. After earning a communications degree in 2016 from the University of Central Florida, he started his career covering sports as a producer for a local radio station, ESPN 580 Orlando. He went on to earn a master’s degree in editorial journalism from Northwestern University, before moving to South Carolina to cover local sports for the USA Today Network’s Spartanburg Herald-Journal. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his lovely wife, Sarah, newborn son, Noah, and dog named Skulí.

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