Sound wall opposition will continue at high volumes
November 21, 2017
The back and forth over the noise abatement measure that is proposed to mitigate traffic noises from Interstate 80 near the Jeremy Ranch neighborhood reached new heights on Monday during a special meeting with representatives from the Utah Department of Transportation.
More than 30 people attended the discussion on Monday, including several of the 25 homeowners who will be voting on the proposed measure, which would be a combination of a berm and sound wall between the Jeremy Ranch on-ramp and Hidden Cove Road. It would include panels ranging between 7 and 17 feet on top of a variable-height berm.
The project will move forward if three-quarters of the voting homeowners submit ballots and it garners a margin of support of at least 75 percent.
Ballots were sent last week, prompting two residents representing a group in opposition of the sound wall – Citizens Against the Wall — to plead with the Summit County Council to host the meeting and, ultimately, intervene in the process. County Council members discussed seeking an injunction to halt the voting process or pursuing other legal avenues.
“The federal government and state is telling me I deserve a sound wall and the county is saying I don’t deserve a sound wall,” Cherie Hooten, Jeremy Ranch resident
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"People come here for tourism," Max Greenhalgh, a member of Citizens Against the Wall, said on Monday. "They want to enjoy the natural beauty. If this happens here it will likely happen in other places in our community. You can put a stop to it. After everything this community has done to preserve open space, I believe the berm/wall would be a slap in our face."
UDOT discovered the need for noise abatement along that section of the interstate after a noise study analysis revealed the area met state and federal standards to explore measures to reduce traffic noise. In the spring, UDOT is expected to begin construction on a new westbound truck lane from Jeremy Ranch to Parley's Summit. The $22 million project is federally funded and will include construction of a wildlife crossing near the Summit and Salt Lake county border and, if approved, the wall/berm.
Many of those who are allowed to vote claim the traffic noise is a health issue and have voiced their approval of mitigation.
Cherie Hooten, who lives near the second hole of the Jeremy Ranch Golf Course and has said she will vote in favor of the measure, told County Council members she was "really disappointed" in them on Monday for considering intervening in the process.
"The federal government and state is telling me I deserve a sound wall and the county is saying I don't deserve a sound wall," Hooten said at the meeting. "Who do you represent? Obviously the state of Utah is representing me and the federal government does and they support me better than my own County Council."
Anthony Sands, a Jeremy Ranch resident and homeowner who will be allowed to vote, said the county's growth, while "great for a lot of people," has created some negative effects for those living in Jeremy Ranch.
"It's gotten worse," he said at the meeting. "We know from a health perspective that there are sound walls in all 50 states, and there is a reason the federal government and state government did this. There is a reason there is health benefit. You can drive by and complain for a few seconds or you can say, 'I love my brother. I love my neighbor and I want to help them out.'"
Some of the benefited homeowners said they have received harassing phone calls and literature regarding the sound wall.
County Council member Kim Carson said several citizens have reached out to the Council and are "pretty horrified by how they were treated by their neighbors."
"We are concerned about all of the residents and one of our main goals is their health, safety and welfare," she said at the meeting. "I do believe the appearance of our surroundings contributes to that, but I think the noise is a really difficult factor and has had a lot of impact on our residents."
Carson implored those in the audience to "take a deep breath" and ensured them that the Council will make sure UDOT follows its regulations regarding noise abatement measures.
County Council member Roger Armstrong said the Council has not taken a side on the issue as a matter of caution.
"We have received a lot of input from one side of this issue and that side came with facts and figures so this was an important opportunity for me to ask questions of UDOT," Armstrong said at the meeting.
After the two-hour discussion, UDOT representatives said they would be willing to consider ways to beautify the sound wall/berm with trees or other natural vegetation.
Bryan Adams, UDOT's Region 2 director, said UDOT is simply following state and federal guidelines. He added, "We don't want to jeopardize not meeting those objectives because that could have an effect on whether that $22 million comes out of our pocket or the federal government's."
"We are caught in the middle," he said at the meeting. "We don't have a skin in the game. At the end of the day I would rather not build a wall. Noise in our business is the toughest thing we deal with. I can tell you we have spent a lot of time working with Summit County and residents to try and come up with a solution that will work with everyone.
"But, I am 100 percent confident we are doing the right thing and we are working within our policy," he added.
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