A new tennis club with proposed large bubble-like enclosures is being met with a volley of opposition from neighborhood residents.
The City Council will decide April 4 whether the gray bubbles will be allowed as tennis court enclosures at the The Birch Racquet & Lawn Club, a 35-court private club planned for Keller Smithfield Road where Newton’s Rocky Top Ranch was located.
The council voted to table a decision on the enclosures after discussion and a public hearing last week. The original concept plan for the club was approved in November, but at that time the domes were not included.
The applicant, Taylor Dent, a retired pro tennis player who rose as high as No. 21 in the world, said there is a need for the indoor tennis domes.
“There are thousands of tennis players in this area, and there are no indoor courts within a 30-minute traffic-free drive,” Dent said.
Some residents are worried that the inflatable tennis domes would be an eyesore, a safety hazard, noisy and result in lower property values. After more than two dozen people gave their opinions to the council last week, the item was tabled so council members could get more information and educate the public about the structures.
Dent said the domes are manufactured by Arizon Building Systems, can withstand 150 mph winds and snow loads of 50 pounds per square foot, and are made of fabric that meets fire code requirements.
Letters of notification were sent to property owners within 300 feet of the location. As of March 7, the city had received four emails in support, 36 emails in opposition, eight letters of opposition and a petition of support from seven properties. The amount of opposition, which represented more than 32.4 percent of the area within 200 feet, requires a supermajority vote for the council to approve the plan.
The Keller Planning and Zoning Commission on Feb. 27 denied recommending the enclosures. After that meeting, Dent changed the location of the domes to the center of the 26-acre site instead of the edge of the property.
That changed the minds of some residents, who said they now support the project.
Kristin Greenlee spoke in favor, saying that safety should be a higher priority than aesthetics and that most tennis courts have no access to bathrooms or cold water.
Brenda Sexton, who spoke in opposition, disagreed. “There is no way two giant gray-colored blobs shaped like slugs are an aesthetic asset to the community,” Sexton said. “These are simply too big and too ugly and don’t belong in a residential neighborhood.”
Bob DeJonge, athletic director for the Keller school district, also spoke in favor.
“I have a working knowledge of the greater needs of the tennis community in the Keller area and in surrounding areas also,” he said. “All of our high schools and all of our middle schools stay busy seven days per week. I think it would be a benefit to the city.”
Dent said tennis players have said they are excited that he is bringing a “great setting and great scene to the area.”
“They love it. They’re excited of our credentials, but when we mentioned our plan of building indoor courts, it’s through the roof,” Dent said. “It’s the No. 1 request and way more than we anticipated when we came down here. And from the business side, would give us something very unique to sell.”
Susan McFarland: 817-390-7984, @susanmcfarland1