Lehi’s tennis and pickleball enthusiasts came to the May 27 Planning Commission meeting to go on record supporting an indoor court facility on what is now VLDRA (very low-density residential agriculture) in west Lehi. The proposed facility seemed to have full support from residents, but commissioners had concerns about the drastic zone change.
Before the Planning Commission heard from applicants and the public on May 27, they introduced Heather Newall as the newest member of the Planning Commission. Newall lives in northeast Lehi, works as the chief technology officer at a non-profit and is the mother of four boys.
Jacob Hansen introduced the plan for an indoor tennis and pickleball facility at 2029 W 900 N by explaining the great demand for courts in the area. Hansen is a tennis instructor with dozens of students in Utah County. “There is a huge demand for tennis in Utah. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else in the country,” said Hansen.
The three-acre lot for the proposed indoor courts is currently a vacant, agriculture plot behind an existing home that will remain in place. Hansen and his partners looked for land with flat terrain that was already zoned Commercial and were unable to find anything in their price range in Lehi. “We feel like our goal is the same as Lehi’s mission for the General Plan. There is no other option for indoor tennis. This is a positive for the community, the facility will be open to Lehi residents. If not us, who’s going to do this?” asked Hansen. The proposed facility would have five indoor tennis courts and eight pickleball courts.
“We could be opening a can of worms switching to Commercial if they sell in the future. The zone would stay the same and who knows what could come in,” said Abram Nielsen, Planning Commission Chair. Commissioner Matt Hemmert pointed out that the City cannot put restrictions on future buyers.
One of Hansen’s business partners, James Anderson, was the first to speak when the public hearing was opened. “We have no intention of selling this facility. It has the financial backing and we’re not trying to make money. We’re open to creative, legal solutions to make sure this stays a tennis and pickleball facility,” said Anderson, a dentist from American Fork.
“I understand zoning is important, but my interest in this is purely for the kids. I freely admit that I want tennis players. After 30 years of coaching, I’ve learned that kids need something to do and a place to do it. Right now, it’s very difficult to find a place to play tennis,” said Allen Wofford, tennis head coach at Lehi High School.
Wofford was followed by several more residents, including teenagers, mothers and fathers, pleading with the commissioners to approve the zone change to accommodate the facility. “It is a big jump from VLDR to Commercial, I get that. The Ivory Ridge facility started out as an amenity for that neighborhood, but it has since turned into a for-profit facility,” said Jeremy Albrecht, a tennis coach at Lehi High School. “I’ve tried to get in there and they make you pay to get on the waiting list. That makes it a for-profit facility in a residential zone. There’s already precedent for this in Lehi City.” Albrecht pointed out that the crowd tennis attracts is not the same as other activities. “Tennis isn’t a late-night, rowdy crowd. This is the type of facility to make an exception for.”
After several more positive comments during the public hearing, Commissioner Nielsen said, “This is the first item I’ve seen without a squeaky wheel. It clearly has a lot of support.”
“The thing is property lives a lot longer than we do. I’m not comfortable kicking that door down, but I think there is a solution here. Is there a zone besides Commercial for it?” asked Commissioner Greg Jackson.
“The current landowner could put in five tennis courts and eight pickleball courts right now and it would be okay. I’m extremely uncomfortable with an island of Commercial in the middle of VLDR,” added Commissioner Hemmert. Commissioner Roger Ellis agreed and suggested they could change what is allowed in a Residential zone rather than change the zone to Commercial.
“We approved two facilities for volleyball courts in the past and they are both something else now,” said Commissioner Tyson Eyre, referring to Aces and the Karl Malone Center. (The Karl Malone Center is still a club volleyball facility.) “I’m terrified of what we’re opening the door to if this doesn’t work out, but it remains Commercial,” Eyre continued.
“Diversity of uses makes good communities. To have someone willing to foot the bill for what is essentially a park, an amenity, you find a way to make it work. Government needs to get out of their own way on this one. It’s a simple need and a simple benefit to the community,” said Commissioner Nielsen.
The Planning Commission ultimately voted to give Jacob Hansen’s zone change for the tennis and pickleball facility a positive recommendation to City Council. Commissioner Brent Everett was the only negative vote.
The following items were given positive recommendations or approval at the May 27 Planning Commission meeting:
Lehi Indoor Tennis & Pickleball Facility Concept at 2029 West 900 North.
Thomas Pannell’s for conditional use approval of the Caliber Collision site plan at 1614 North Boston Street.
Gardner Company’s request for preliminary subdivision review of a 4-lot commercial subdivision at Blue Sky Road and Orinda Drive.
Jami Ray’s request for review of the Lamb Property General Plan Amendment, changing his entire property at 1190 North 500 West to Mixed Use.
Howard Cooke’s request for review of the Lewis Flex Office Zone Change from Commercial to Heavy Commercial on 10-acres of property at 4100 West 2100 North.
Lehi City’s request for review of a General Plan Amendment for Public Facilities in various locations of the City.