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Late-night store noises continue to annoy neighbors

SNOHOMISH — Shawn Gay has crusaded against intrusive noise emanating in the wee hours from Fred Meyer, but after nearly two years of fighting, she has not felt heard.
Gay, along with two other residents, brought their plea to the City Council once again at its Feb. 6 meeting. The city is working to help coordinate and fund a sound study, but in the meantime, the residents still had to contend with excessive noise.
“No one likes to be woken from a deep sleep by backup alarms, loud crashes, forklifts, leaf blowers and (parking lot) sweepers,” Gay told the council. The group played recordings of the jarring noises, some they said occurred as early as 3:40 a.m.
The presenters displayed a map that showed 10 nearby cities, shaded in green, that had noise protection against similar issues. Only Snohomish stood out, in red, as unprotected.
There was no simple or easy solution according to Steve
Schuller, the city administrator, which echoed the message Planning Director Glen Pickus gave when the issue was raised in a council meeting six months earlier. The city had expressed concern at that time that a new ordinance might deter business development.
“It breaks my heart that you are having trouble sleeping,” said Mayor John Kartak.
The Mayor and staff met the next morning, Feb. 7, to discuss the noise issue.
The immediate focus will be on Kartak working to obtain informal compliance, Schuller said in an interview after the city staff meeting.
The city is also moving forward with plans for the noise study, which will be conducted by The Greenbusch Group of Seattle. Schuller said the city has given a scope of work for the study to the Northwest Grocery Association and is considering how to split project costs.
“We really want to get this solved,” said Fred Meyer spokesman Jeffery Temple. “We’ll help cut the check” for a sound study, he said, contingent upon finalizing the study and cost sharing plan.
The number of parties involved has complicated the issue, as has jurisdiction: Gay and many of the impacted neighbors live on 95th Drive SE outside city limits, while the Fred Meyer lies within them.
The parties include retailers, the city, city and county residents, and city and county law enforcement, who have all become involved to little avail.
Two years of efforts
Gay began by presenting a petition from 15 neighbors to Fred Meyer and other parties in March 2016. The group sought noise restrictions and also mitigation including building parapets, enclosing the loading dock and reducing the glare of the store’s lights.
Gay said she delivered notices of noise code violations to city and county law enforcement as well as the city a couple months after that. Gay said each agency believed another was responsible for enforcement. The net effect was nil.
Residents have spoken at council meetings several times. Eight neighbors spoke about the noise at the July 18, 2017 City Council meeting. A corporate officer for Fred Meyer also attended and said Fred Meyer had cut loading dock hours and wanted to be a good neighbor.
At that meeting, then-mayor Tom Hamilton said he would contact both parties the next day, but mediation efforts fizzled. The city, neighbors and Fred Meyer have not yet sat down together, said Suzanne Davis, who lives next to the Haggen on Avenue D.
Gay and Davis have made small gains due to their extensive effort but are currently pushing for a Snohomish city noise ordinance that would regulate the hours when certain loud noises could occur.
Fred Meyer agreed to reduce loading dock hours from 24 hours a day to between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Gay said that six hours of quiet per night is insufficient and that Fred Meyer does not always abide by the agreement.
In Davis’ case, she has called Haggen to complain for five or six years. Davis lives next door to Haggen’s loading dock. She said she sometimes gets results but they are often short-lived.
Residents say Fred Meyer, Haggen and Safeway should all be subject to noise regulation. Gay had originally also focused on Home Depot but said that retailer has already acted to mitigate noise.
“Being awakened with the concussion of the sound,” is something Davis said she could not get used to, even after years of trying.
She escalated her complaint to the city about six months ago after hearing about Gay’s issues with Fred Meyer. She said she had spent as much as 40 hours per week working on the issue.
There was a hiatus in residents’ organized efforts due to the November elections and change in city government, but Davis said she had called Haggen as recently as last week.
Haggen manager Mike Olafson said on Feb. 7 that he was not personally aware of any noise complaints specific to Haggen.
“The biggest noise factor at our store is the post office. They’re unloading trucks when we’re not; we’re being blamed for something that’s really not ours,” Olafson said.
Davis said she will have to follow the issue mostly through her computer after undergoing a scheduled surgery soon.
“I would like to (have it quiet) while I recover, my bedroom faces the loading dock, but that’s not going to happen, I’m resigned to that.”
Davis said she is focused now on gaining something for the citizens of Snohomish. “I want something that benefits the town, I love the town.”

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