SWAMPSCOTT, MA — A proposal to accept $56,000 in state matching funding toward the construction of four pickleball courts at Phillips Park is back up for a discussion and town meeting vote in Swampscott after some neighborhood residents thought the project was scuttled when accepting the grant failed to gain the two-thirds support needed at the December special town meeting.

But a warrant article is back on the docket for the March 11 special town meeting that would instead use “free cash” — or town surpluses — to fund the town’s half of the project instead of bonding the cost. The change would shift the threshold necessary for passage from the two-thirds necessary for the bonding to a simple majority for the free cash expenditure.

At the Dec. 11 special town meeting, 106 of the town meeting members voted in favor of the motion, with 57 voting against — a margin of 65.6 percent to 34.4 percent. The motion
would have required a flip of two additional voters to pass the funding acceptance.

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“Nobody every spoke to any of the neighbors,” Neal Perlstein, who is a Sutton Place resident, told Patch of the renewed push for passage. “A lot of people I have talked to about it have told me: ‘I thought this was a dead issue.’

“The whole thing is a travesty. It’s an absolute travesty. It’s disgusting.”

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Perlstein said he has begun his own notification campaign to let residents in the areas surrounding Phillips Park know it’s back up for debate in March. The Select Board’s agenda for Wednesday’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. at Swampscott High School includes “review of special town meeting warrant of 3/11/24, including review, discussion and vote on articles for inclusion in the warrant.”

Public comment is on the agenda for the meeting.

“If you have something that gets defeated, and you want to bring it back up, it seems to me you should be going to talk to people and find out what the issue is (that resulted in defeat),” Perlstein said. “But it seems like they were going to find a way to bring it back anyway.

“It’s like they are going to keep doing it until they get it through because they don’t want to be told what they can’t do.”

Sue Devlin, who lives on Puritan Way, said she found out about the proposal through Perlstein’s letter and is also against accepting the matching funds.

“My quality of life will really be disrupted,” she told Patch. “I think I can say the same about many of our neighbors. We are an older community. We have been here a long time. We like spending time enjoying our backyards. And this will not be enjoyable.”

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While Perlstein said he agrees the noise is a concern, his biggest worries are the flooding that takes place in the area that he fears will worsen with the construction, and the additional parking crunch — especially during beach season and when there are sports events at the nearby fields.

“The noise is bad,” he said. “The noise won’t flood my house. The noise won’t take my little sidestreet and put cars on it. But the noise will ruin my Saturday.”

The Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant is specific to the courts going in at Phillips Park — the town would have to reapply for the funding if it moved the proposed courts to a different site across the city — although the actual site of the placement of the courts in the park can still be determined.

Passage of the grant acceptance would not finalize the court project as it would still be subject to public hearings and the planning process. But those opposed to the courts at Phillips Park fear that once the town has the state matching funds it would be that much more difficult to kill the project.

“We are talking about something this is going to have an impact on flooding, and is going to have an impact on my peaceful enjoyment of my home with no communication from the town,” Perlstein said.

(Scott Souza is a Patch field editor covering Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Peabody, Salem and Swampscott. He can be reached at Scott.Souza@Patch.com. X/Twitter: @Scott_Souza.)

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