Group fortifies against a Jeremy Ranch wall | ParkRecord.com

Group fortifies against a Jeremy Ranch wall

As the Utah Department of Transportation plans to move forward with the balloting process to determine whether Jeremy Ranch residents are in favor of a noise barrier along Interstate 80, a group has formed in opposition to the measure.

UDOT announced earlier in October that homeowners near the interstate will be voting on a combination of a berm and sound wall designed to mitigate traffic noises between the Jeremy Ranch on-ramp and Hidden Cove Road. Ballots are scheduled to be sent within the next week.

The group, known as the Citizens Against the Wall, claims the measure does not meet UDOT's own policy for noise abatement. They are hoping to delay the voting process to allow a more thorough cost-and-noise analysis of constructing the barrier.

"We are opposed to the wall because we don't think a 17- to 20-foot berm/wall fits into the character of the community and Summit County," said Tom Farkas, a member of Citizens Against the Wall's executive committee and a resident of South Ridge in Jeremy Ranch. "It would be all that you would see and I just can't imagine what someone coming into Park City would think. I mean the Berlin Wall was only 12 feet."

Last winter, UDOT completed an environmental analysis in anticipation of a climbing-lane project that will add an additional westbound lane between Jeremy Ranch and Lamb's Canyon in the spring of 2018. The study revealed current traffic noise levels in lower Jeremy Ranch warrant mitigation and the additional lane will only slightly increase the problem.

UDOT recently determined that a wall with panels ranging between 7 and 17 feet on top of a variable-height berm would meet federal guidelines and adhere to UDOT's noise abatement policy.

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"What I think we would like to accomplish is to not have a wall and continue having our open space," said Daniel Bass, a member of the Citizens Against the Wall executive committee and a resident of Jeremy Viewpoint. "Adding a monstrous, ugly wall won't benefit anyone coming in to Summit County and it won't benefit the homeowners to the extent they think it will."

Bass took issue with the spring climbing-lane project, questioning the demand for an additional lane and the correlation between it and the need for a noise barrier.

"If you don't build a climbing lane, is there really the need for a wall?" Bass said. "I drive these streets every day and I frankly don't see the need for it."

Bass said he sympathizes with the homeowners who have issues with noise. But, he said, one of the unintended consequences of a wall could be that it creates additional noise for surrounding homes or those across the interstate.

"The problem is these people bought homes on the highway and knew what they were getting into," Bass said. "They paid less for their home because of what was already in existence – the highway. It came first."

Homeowners near the highway who are most affected by the interstate noise — considered benefited receptors — will have the opportunity to vote. The measure will move forward if three-quarters of the 24 homeowners allowed to vote submit ballots and it garners a margin of support of at least 75 percent. If approved, the berm/wall would be constructed along with the additional climbing lane and a wildlife overpass.

Bass threatened legal action if the balloting process continues to move forward and a wall is approved. He said he would leave it up to the courts to determine if UDOT is adhering to its policies.

Bass suggested UDOT hold another public meeting to allow the affected homeowners and nearby residents to review the information that supports the need for noise abatement and the benefits of the new combination berm and wall design.

Summit County Council Chair Chris Robinson previously told The Park Record that the Council does not support the construction of a noise wall. However, he also pointed out that the Council has limited power in influencing the process or final product.

Farkas reiterated Bass's claims, alleging UDOT is understating the cost of the wall while overstating its benefits.

"UDOT comes along and says, 'We are going to build a wall and we are going to stop all the noise,'" Farkas said. "I can understand the homeowners wanting it, but there are rules and the only recourse we have as non-voters is to make sure UDOT complies with their own rules. Based off of our information that we strongly feel is accurate, they shouldn't be able to build a wall and we are trying to prove that."

John Montoya, UDOT's project manager, said he is confident the agency followed the policy for noise abatement. He said the claims made by Citizens Against the Wall have been evaluated and are unfounded.

"We are confident that we are taking the appropriate steps to mitigate noise to the appropriate levels, and I think we feel like we are on solid ground," he said. "We are bound by federal and state laws and we feel like we are adhering to that. We have slowed down this process in order to give everyone a voice and, I think, we are to the point where both sides want to see some resolution. I understand that there would be some desire from those opposed to slow this down, but I think that those affected and identified as benefited receptors are anxious for the process to move forward."