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Horse group opposes fairgrounds indoor tennis courts

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It could come down to equestrians vs. tennis players.

Members of the Black River Valley Horse Association were at Monday night’s City Council meeting to oppose a proposal to build indoor tennis courts on city-owned land adjacent to the Fairgrounds Y. Members of the horse group told council members that the expansion of the Fairgrounds Y building for the tennis court would interfere with their six shows at the nearby horse arena. The Jefferson County 4-H and Jefferson County Fair also use the arena, association President Gregory J. Knapp said.

“We’re running out of room now,” Mr. Knapp said, adding that the 140- by 140-foot expansion would take up all of the group’s parking area used for trucks and trailers and spectators.

He also said it would be unsafe for both children and horses to cross a road if the parking were moved to a more distant location. With its 150 members and their families, the group’s shows generate about $450,000 from people eating at local restaurants, purchasing fuel and shopping during their visits to the city, he said.

Last week, a group of tennis enthusiasts presented its plans to build indoor tennis courts. The group has been leading a campaign to help raise about $400,000 it will need to construct the pair of indoor courts. The Y would run the courts for members, high school teams and youth tennis groups.

The tennis group started its campaign almost immediately after Stebbins Engineering & Manufacturing Co. purchased the Watertown Health & Racquet Club, 431 Eastern Blvd., last year and turned it into a storage building for construction equipment.

But association members said they already have moved the horse arena from two other locations at the fairgrounds, including to accommodate the Y building. The group has been holding horse shows at the fairgrounds since 1989.

Council members took no action on the tennis court project Monday night, saying they want Parks and Recreation Department staff to look at the issue. The Parks Department runs the fairgrounds.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said he does not want council members to “alienate” either group, noting that the equestrian group offers a good family activity.

Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr. said the indoor tennis project is in the early planning stages. He, too, would like the city “to accommodate both groups,” he said.

“Certainly, we do not want to alienate you folks,” he said. “We’re not trying infringe or step on anyone’s toes, either.”

The city would have to obtain approval from the state Legislature to sell or lease the land for the tennis courts.

In other business, Casey Street resident Trudy A. Ryan complained that her family is still having problems from loud music and other disruptions, caused by a nearby business, Audio Arsenal, 1057 Arsenal St.

Her family has called city police more than 100 times during the past couple of years about the noise that emanates from the car stereo business next door. In April 2011, council members passed a noise ordinance, but it has had little impact since a judge last year threw out a case against the Arsenal Street business.

On Monday night, Mrs. Ryan called on the City Council to consider putting the business through an environmental impact study.

Council members took no action Monday. Instead, they want Police Chief Gary R. Comins to attend a council meeting to discuss the issue. They also instructed city Attorney Robert J. Slye to put together a memo on the legal issues regarding the noise ordinance.

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