Rowdy paddle courts will move

The paddle tennis courts at Silver Spring Country Club are just 45 feet form the property line of the nearest neighbors, marked by the sonte wall. The club got a approval to move the courts so they'll be more than 900 feet from the closest home.

The paddle tennis courts at Silver Spring Country Club are just 45 feet form the property line of the nearest neighbors, marked by the sonte wall. The club got a approval to move the courts so they'll be more than 900 feet from the closest home.

Macklin Reid /Hearst Connecticut Media

The excitement, the competition, the noise, the lights, the bursts of profanity, the post-match drinking — everything that goes with paddle tennis, the good and the bad — will continue at Silver Spring Country Club, but with shorter hours, a longer season and, the following year, a new location on the 300-acre property allowing a return to longer hours.

“No one would like this facility in their backyard,” Patricia Steinhart told the Planning and Zoning Commission. “...They do a lot of drinking. It’s a nighttime sport.”

Her husband, Richard Steinhart, added that proximity to the paddle courts forced him to put in new windows that would better block out the noise.

“I heard screaming and yelling in my house,” he said. “...This really started in 2012.”

The Steinharts and other near neighbors, Colleen and Jose Padilla, will put up with it for another year, through the 2019-20 fall-to-winter paddle season — but within a strict time limit, imposed by the P&Z commission as part of special permit revision approved July 30.

“All lights, activities, use of the warming hut — everything — ceases at 10 p.m.” said commission member Mark Zeck, who made the motion to approve the permit revision with tightened time limits.

The situation is expected to be eased the following year by a relocation of the paddle courts for the 2020-21 season, under the revised permit.

“It’s an excellent location,” Colleen Padilla said of the planned new site for the paddle courts. “It’s very woodsy. Their maintenance hut will block a lot of the sound. The closest neighbor will be 1,000 feet away.”

Currently, the paddle courts are about 45 feet from property line of the closest neighbors — the Padillas, at 55 Country Club Road.

“They have four little girls, ages 8 to 16 — they don’t want the noise, the profanity,” Patricia Steinhart, who lives at 49 Country Club Road, said of the Padillas.

When the courts are moved the new closest neighbor will be more than 900 feet away.

And that closest neighbor will be Steve Scala — a Silver Spring member who appeared at the July 30 P&Z hearing in support of the club’s plan.

Colleen Padilla and Patricia Steinhart spoke to The Press Monday, Aug. 5, six days after the P&Z commission had approved the special permit revision allowing the private club to relocate the courts, and a maintenance facility, and build a 62-space parking area.

Acoustics, profanity

Documents provided to the commission by Peri Chain of SH Acoustics (SHA) said the noise from paddle tennis at the new location shouldn’t offend neighbors.

“While onsite SHA tested the impact noise of a typical paddle tennis ball against the ground and the court enclosure. Given the large distance from the proposed courts to the nearest residence, we believe that the impulse noise generated by the impact of the ball will not disturb even the closest residence.”

But the neighbors’ concerns weren’t just the sound of the paddle ball hitting the paddles or the court’s wooden floor and screen fencing.

“The profanity,” Patricia Steinhart said. “They’re all men. They’re mad they missed their shot.”

The neighbors also don’t like the late night social scene as players hang around in the warming hut or fire pit, watching other games finish up, often with drinks.

“It’s not a hut, it’s a lounge,” said Colleen Padilla.

Full season

The revised permit will allow the upcoming season to continue for a full fall-winter paddle season season from Sept. 15 to April 15, but within limited hours — lights out at 10 — for the coming 2019-20 season.

That corrects two problems — one for the neighbors and one for the paddle players.

The neighbors regard the 10 p.m.curfew as an improvement. The permit granted for a renovation in 2012 had allowed the use of the courts to go until 11 at night, annoying the neighbors.

But that 2012 permit cut the season off at the end of February — interfering with league playoffs.

Though play will be cut off at 10 p.m. for the coming season under the revised permit approved July 30, it will again be allowed to go later into the night — to 11 p.m. — when the paddle courts are moved to a new location farther from neighbors, starting the following season, fall and winter 2020-21.

The hearing on the permit application covered a wide range of other topics, from effort to preserve habitat for local amphibians — frogs and spotted salamanders — to the noise and lights affecting near neighbors, just 45 feet away.

“We are close,” club member Scala said. “No question about that, Nobody denies that.”

Nightly curfew

Scala, other club representatives, and Attorney Robert Jewell, representing the club, tried to fight the nightly 10 p.m. cut-off of play.

“This is a voluntary relocation,” said Jewell. “...There’s no requirement to relocate the paddle facility … 10:30 is about as early as they could stop at night.”

“What’s magic about that last half-hour?” asked commission member John Katz.

It’s a matter of having time to complete games in league matches, club representatives explained. Play can’t get started until competitors from other, sometimes fairly distant clubs arrive. And it can take time to finish matches. The hours of play are also fairly standard in the league, where every club plays both home and away matches.

“It’s not just Silver Spring, it’s the overall league of paddle tennis clubs,” said Scala. “Those are the hours that are used.”

Commisioner Katz thought the paddle players should have more respect for neighbors’ concerns, and show some flexibility on the ending time.

“It is just pig-headed, bull-headed,” said Katz. “...To continue to offend the neighbors the way they have for seven years or more — just doesn’t make sense.”

It was neighbor Richard Steinhart who suggested the compromise of cutting off play at 10 nightly, but allowing the club paddle season’s end-date to be extended from the end of February to April 15.

“I actually like Mr. Steinhart’s compromise,” said commissioner Joe Fossi. “...The club doesn’t have to move the courts. They’re doing it to be good neighbors.”

And, the 10 p.m. curfew would give the paddle crowd a reason to actively pursue the renovation — which will likely be costly.

“This give them incentive to get it moved,” Fossi said.

$100,000 a year

In his closing remarks Jewell said the Silver Spring Country Club was founded in 1930, and paid the town about $100,000 a year in taxes on private recreational facilities that include a golf course, tennis courts, paddle courts, pool, and clubhouse with dining room.

“The town would be much different,” Jewell said, “if this 300 acres were not stewarded by the country club, and were put to another use.”

The neighbors closest to the club told The Press they can live with the paddle tennis so close for one more year — knowing it will be moved for the next season.

“A happy resolution,” Colleen Padilla said, “an excellent location.”

And she said that many aspects of living near the club — like hearing the kids swimming in the pool — are positive.

“You should hear the happiness that comes from that pool,” she said. “It’s pure joy.”