Sound of a strong economy torments Basalt residents
A turnaround in the economy this summer has been music to the ears of workers at Myers and Co. Architectural Metals but not to their neighbors in Basalt.
After suffering through somewhat of a slump, like the rest of the construction industry, business has picked up this summer to the point where Myers has added a second shift at its production facility just south of Highway 82 in Basalt. The graveyard shift toils from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. fabricating metal beams and components used in construction projects around the region.
The work has neighbors in the adjacent residential area seeking relief. A contingent of Southside subdivision residents started lobbying the Basalt Town Council last week to impose limits on the hours that sound emanates from the Myers plant.
“We have all paid high prices to be part of this community and this neighborhood, and would appreciate you helping us to resolve this disturbing matter,” said Julie Goldstein in a letter submitted to the Basalt Town Council.
Gregory Smith made a similar comment in a creative way. “Clinking, clanking, clanging, banging, scraping, shrieking, all evening and through the night, past midnight, past 1 a.m. till 2 a.m.,” Smith wrote. “Don’t get too relaxed, it’ll start again later this morning at 6 a.m., six and maybe seven days a week. … The incessant Chinese torturous beeep, beeep, beeep warning sound of forklifts backing up.”
Patricia Straight, a representative of the Southside residents, told the Town Council they realized Myers was there first and has a right to work. The residents want reasonable limits placed on the company, like peace and quiet by 10 p.m., she said.
Bob Myers, a partner in the company, said he can sympathize with his neighbors, but not to the extent where he will turn down work to avoid nighttime production.
“You don’t put five to 10 million dollars into a production facility and use it one-third of the time,” said Myers. “We’re here. We’ve been here 15 years. We’re operating within state codes.”
The company has operated on a 5.5-acre site in Basalt since 1986. Since relocating from Aspen to Basalt it has seen development sprout around it. A commercial and light industrial zone lines the area just south of Highway 82. It accommodates everything from Big O Tires to the headquarters for Hypercar, a company working on a hydrogen-fuel based vehicle of tomorrow.
In recent years, the Southside area has become more of a melting pot. The high school was built there. Dale and Sally Potvin applied for approval of Southside subdivision in 1994 and eventually earned permission to develop 38 single-family homes, 18 duplexes, 24 townhouses and four mixed-use units where a residence can be developed in the same building as a business.
The 84-residence subdivision is about 60 percent built out, Sally Potvin estimated. It’s a nice neighborhood that features front porches rather than garages protruding out like snouts. People there are neighborly and genuinely care about their neighborhood, she said.
Myers said the residents deserved more of a warning from the Potvins and their agents about the potential for noise, considering the subdivision borders a light industrial zone. He said he attended hearings held by the town government and noted the potential for conflicts.
Potvin acknowledges those warnings from Myers, although she claimed the second shift at Myers Metals adds a new wrinkle to the problem that was never anticipated. “It’s the second shift that’s the big issue. It’s something new,” she said.
Myers counters that his company has run a second shift when demand warranted it in the past.
Potvin said she and her husband initially proposed mixed-use buildings in their proposal to serve as a buffer between homes in their subdivision and Myers. They proposed a mixture of buildings that would have businesses on the north side, facing Myers’ plant, and residences on the south side, facing the rest of the residential project.
A downzoning of their property by Basalt allowed them to build only four such buildings. Potvin said she is unsure how effective that buffer will be.
She said there would be no problem if the noise came from the shop during normal business hours. Everyone realizes that Myers and Co. was there first. But she believes a noise ordinance is necessary to limit noise from a second shift.
“There is [a need] when there’s extraordinary noise in the middle of the night,” said Potvin.
Myers disputed that noise exceeds standards set by the state with any regularity. He said he purchased a decibel meter and tested on and around his property at various times of the day and night. He claimed the noise was well within limits laid out by state law. The state provides the only usable guidelines since Basalt doesn’t have its own code.
Myers said he is reluctant to voluntarily make changes because that will lead to a “slippery slope” of expectations on his business.
That leaves it up to the town government to craft a peaceful solution. Police chief Keith Ikeda told the Town Council that he warned Myers and Co. that continued complaints would lead to a ticket for disorderly conduct. Myers questioned whether such a charge would be upheld in court.
Town manager Tom Baker said mixed-use neighborhoods – which provide a desirable, lively mix of residential and commercial developments – inherently come with challenges such as noise. He said the problem doesn’t mean the hodgepodge of zoning on the Southside is a mistake. It means that creative solutions need to be sought to accommodate everyone.
In this case, it may require Myers and Co. to find a way to keep its garage door closed during nighttime work. That would require an alternative method of ventilation.
Baker said he wouldn’t rule out a town noise ordinance, but he isn’t convinced that will settle the residents’ issues.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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