Jeremy Ranch residents approve Summit County’s first noise barrier
December 26, 2017
The ballots are in and it appears Jeremy Ranch residents near Interstate 80 are overwhelmingly in support of noise mitigation along the freeway.
The Utah Department of Transportation announced on Dec. 22 that 93 percent of 27 property owners polled voted in favor of a noise barrier with panels ranging between 7 and 17 feet on top of a variable-height berm. The ballots were counted last week and UDOT determined the design had passed, allowing the agency to move forward with construction in the spring of 2018.
The noise barrier will be the first of its kind in Summit County. Similar mitigation measures are located along nearly all of UDOT's major corridors, such as Interstate 80 and Interstate 15, including the Mountain View corridor.
Opposition to the noise barrier has remained strong ever since the project was first announced. A group was formed, Citizens Against the Wall, that continuously denounced UDOT's findings. They have threatened to take legal action now that the project is moving forward.
"I'm thrilled, of course, and my neighbors are too," said Cherie Hooten. She lives near the second hole of Jeremy Ranch Golf and Country Club and voted in favor of the barrier. "The 93 percent support tells me that we have a problem and, like I've said before, the federal government knows we have a problem and they are trying to help us. We truly appreciate that."
In May, UDOT completed a noise study in anticipation of construction of a new west-bound climbing lane on Interstate 80 between Jeremy Ranch and Parleys Summit. The noise study recommended an 18-foot concrete wall to mitigate traffic noises near Jeremy Ranch. After the public pushed back against the design, UDOT determined a combination berm/wall would meet federal guidelines and adhere to UDOT's Noise Abatement Policy.
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Ballots were sent to 27 property owners adjacent to where the proposed noise wall would be built, along with Jeremy Ranch Golf Course, which received two votes. Property-owner votes and tenant votes — or owner/renter properties such as Jeremy Ranch Golf Course — were weighted differently, according to UDOT's Noise Wall Balloting Report. Votes from the property owners had a weight of five, while tenant votes had a weight of one.
At least 75 percent of ballots had to be returned, with 75 percent of those in favor of the measure for it to be built. According to the report, 100 percent of ballots were returned. Only two voted against the barrier.
UDOT representatives have said that if the barrier was approved, it would be constructed in conjunction with the new truck lane. The $22 million project is federally funded and will include construction of a wildlife crossing near the Summit and Salt Lake county border.
"The fact that there were people that would fight something I like this, I don't understand that at all," Hooten said. "I don't understand that people would not want this to happen when they know it would be for the good of the people. I would never do something like that. Everyone has their own right to their opinion and their own feelings, but it's been an eye-opening experience for us.
"They know the reason the wall is going in because the noise is harmful to us and for someone to say, 'You deserve it because you bought the property,' that doesn't make sense," she added. "I'm thrilled and I'm so glad. I am looking forward to it."
Rex Hardy, who also lives near the second hole of the golf course, said he was not surprised the measure passed. He said his neighborhood is a "pretty tightly knit community" and everyone understood in the beginning that most were on board with the barrier.
"We all understood it had a high probability of moving forward," Hardy said. "I'm happy. My family is happy. My neighbors are happy, and many others who were not benefitted receptors had expressed their hope that we would vote for it. We received feedback from others who are not excited about it and that has been loud. I sit there and I feel like I get to enjoy this at the expense of everyone's visual impact, and we've taken everyone's position into account. But, we live here and it will be a tremendous improvement to our quality of life."
Members of Citizens Against the Wall claimed the measure did not meet the agency's cost criteria and did not benefit those who were voting. Members said the visual impact of a noise barrier would be detrimental to nearby residents and visitors.
Dan Bass, a member of Citizens Against the Wall and resident of the Viewpoint subdivision in Jeremy Ranch, said he understood why homeowners voted in favor of the wall. But, he added, "I think the rest of us taxpayers should have a voice.
"All these people who bought homes on the highway knew what they were getting into, and this is in their view a Christmas present for them for buying a house that was on the highway."
Bass said Citizens Against the Wall will continue to refute the results of UDOT's balloting and noise policy procedures, and will likely seek legal action against the agency.
"I don't think they have followed their procedures, and I think they have overlooked what they needed to do for due diligence," he said. "Our position has always been, and still is, that they did not ballot the correct people. They have included people who they initially indicated were not receptors. I think we will be filing suit and asking for injunctive relief for UDOT. I think they are in the construction business and all they want to do is construct rather than improve."
To view UDOT's Noise Wall Balloting Report, go to http://www.udot.utah.gov/renovate-I-80/wp-content/themes/renovate/pdf/Noise_Balloting_Report_Final.pdf.
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