Saturday, July 13, 2024

Flower Mound council approves proposed pickleball courts at River Walk

The Flower Mound Town Council on Monday night approved a Specific Use Permit request to allow for a dozen new pickleball courts to be added at the River Walk, but it wasn’t unanimous nor was it unconditional.

A concept plan for 12 pickleball courts on the top level of the River Walk parking garage, image courtesy of the town of Flower Mound

River Walk F&B, the management company operating the restaurants on the River Walk, wants to paint pickleball courts over some parking spots on the top level of the River Walk parking garage, 4110 River Walk Drive. The top level, which has 147 parking spaces, would be closed to vehicles when the pickleball courts will be open, during slower times for the River Walk restaurants: weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and extended evening hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6-9 p.m.

The applicant and town staff believe that there is currently sufficient parking at the River Walk during those times without the top floor of the parking garage. If parking demand increases, the pickleball hours would be adjusted to ensure that there are enough parking spots at the River Walk to meet demand.

River Walk F&B aims to “provide an interim use with something that’s underutilized,” said Randi Rivera, land planner at McAdams Co. “Once it becomes utilized, then this use is going away. It’s a minimal improvement to get people to the River Walk, to serve a need in the community on a temporary basis.”

By offering pickleball court space, River Walk F&B hopes to bring more business to its restaurants while better utilizing the space and resources it has. To use the pickleball courts, players will need to bring their own equipment, including a net, and they’ll need to go to one of the restaurants to sign up for one of the courts, sign a waiver and pay a $1/court fee.

During Monday’s council meeting, more than a dozen residents made spoken or written comments supporting the proposed courts, and none were opposed. Council members asked the applicant several questions and expressed concerns about safety, noise and parking.

“At eye level, I think this is a clever use of a pretty under-utilized asset, and we certainly want the River Walk to be more successful, and if this can help with that I think we would all be in agreement that we’d like to see that,” Councilman Adam Schiestel said. “But the concerns that the other council members raised are some that I share. Noise, in particular, was the first thing that came to mind … but all the emails we got were in support.”

Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Ann Martin pressed River Walk F&B Owner Michael Beaty about how safe players would be on the proposed courts. Beaty said the company has insurance for liability, but did not have enough specific details to answer some of Martin’s questions.

“That’s something I think you would want to check into,” Martin said after a quick back-and-forth about liability. “Another safety concern I have are the light poles, some could come into play. How do you plan to protect those concrete stanchions the poles are in?”

“Protect the concrete?” Beaty asked.

“You know, a buffer, so people won’t run into it and get hurt,” Martin said.

“Common sense, I don’t know,” Beaty replied.

After moving on to the subjects of noise and parking, Martin asked, “You’re not providing nets? So people have to park on the lower level and carry equipment up the stairs?”

“Or they could park on the street,” Beaty said.

“If you have 12 courts, that’s up to 48 people who could play at one time,” Martin said. “Doubles is very common.”

“There’s 51 spaces along the road,” Beaty said.

“Assuming nobody else wants to park there for any other purpose,” Martin responded before moving on to more of her concerns.

At one point, Martin suggested council table the request so that the applicant could better address their safety concerns, but Beaty said he’d rather just withdraw the request than table it, so council continued to discuss the proposal.

“I just think the plan is not well thought out,” Martin said later in the meeting.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Engel also wondered if the River Walk would miss the parking it would lose when the pickleball courts are open. Beaty tried to assure him, and the rest of council, that the company would reduce the pickleball hours if parking becomes an issue.

“If we had a lunch crowd that completely filled the 51 spaces (on the road) and then the lower level (of the garage), I’d be a very happy person,” Beaty said, later adding that the garage only ever comes close to filling on Friday and Saturday nights. “If there is a parking conflict, court’s closed.”

Engel said he wasn’t impressed with the proposal, though the courts are meant to be temporary.

“I’m disappointed with what I perceive as the little amount of planning that went into this for something that took over a year to bring to us,” Engel said. “I am supportive of bringing pickleball there to make it work for those restaurants, but I still have concerns about the way it’s going to work.”

Schiestel, Engel and Chris Drew voted to approve the request, with some conditions to require buffer space between the courts and expansion joints and light poles, as well as to re-evaluate the SUP annually. Martin voted against. Brian Taylor was not present. The motion passed.

River Walk F&B declined to comment Tuesday about what it plans to do now that the courts were approved with conditions. No timeline for when they may open has been announced.

Mark Smith
Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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