Briggs & Stratton‚Äôs equipment testing continues to irk residents who ask board to enforce ordinance
A group of neighbors tired of what they say is excessive noise coming from the Briggs & Stratton proving grounds on Highway LL beseeched the Port Washington Town Board on Monday to enforce the town‚Äôs noise ordinance.
It was a recurring debate that got testy as more than a dozen frustrated residents confronted the board over an issue they say has been recurring for years ‚ÄĒ one they said they need the town‚Äôs help in resolving.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think any demand we‚Äôre making is unreasonable. We‚Äôre looking for a time frame for it to be solved, and we‚Äôll keep coming until it‚Äôs handled,‚ÄĚ Michael Howarth, 3251 Bay Hill Rd., told the board.
Officials, for their part, said they have been trying to work with the company to solve the problem and noted the complexity of dealing with noise issues.
Town Chairman Jim Melichar said he‚Äôs taken the residents‚Äô complaints to company representatives at the proving grounds and they assured him they are working to solve the issue.
He said he was told a request to install acoustic fencing to muffle the sound is pending before corporate officials.
The town, Melichar said, has to work with the company as well as residents.
‚ÄúWhat am I supposed to do? Shut them down?‚ÄĚ Melichar asked. ‚ÄúI have a hard time asking a business to shut down.‚ÄĚ
That‚Äôs not what they want either, residents said. They just want the noise to be controlled so they can enjoy their properties.
Although there have been some improvements ‚ÄĒ Briggs no longer tests its machinery at night, they said ‚ÄĒ there is much that needs to be done yet.
The problem, residents said, is that Briggs & Stratton will run mowers on pavement, unmanned, for 15 hours a day to test them, which creates a loud and annoying noise that spreads through the area.
‚ÄúWhen they run those mowers over concrete, it gets pretty noisy,‚ÄĚ one man told the board.
‚ÄúWe moved here for the quiet,‚ÄĚ another man said. ‚ÄúTo have factory noise when you‚Äôre sitting outside is pretty annoying.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI hear it when my windows are closed,‚ÄĚ said Nancy Gauthier, 3283 Bay Hill Rd. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not so much the volume as the pitch. It‚Äôs a whine that really drives you crazy.‚ÄĚ
The noise isn‚Äôt a daily event, but it happens frequently, residents said.
‚ÄúTheir methods change all the time,‚ÄĚ Al Gauthier said. ‚ÄúThis summer it was quiet.‚ÄĚ
Melichar said he‚Äôs spoken to workers at the site who say they are trying to get a noise-absorbing fence installed that should help the situation.
‚ÄúThat is going to be their first line of defense,‚ÄĚ Melichar said.
The town has a noise ordinance, and the board needs to enforce it, said Rory Cattelan, 3274 Bay Hill Rd.
Cattelan, who sent the board an e-mail prior to the meeting outlining his concerns, noted that the ordinance calls for all noise to be muffled or controlled so it is not objectionable.
‚ÄúThere is no control or muffling at all,‚ÄĚ he wrote. ‚ÄúNo berm, no shelter, no vegetation, nothing. Why isn‚Äôt this ordinance enforced? Are we not an annoyed or disturbed neighborhood? What makes Briggs & Stratton exempt from abiding by these ordinances?‚ÄĚ
Cattelan reiterated those concerns at the meeting, adding that he and his neighbors only want to enjoy their property.
‚ÄúIf the town does not pressure them to be good neighbors, then they have no incentive and we have no voice,‚ÄĚ he wrote. ‚ÄúBut we do have a vote.‚ÄĚ
Town Supr. Mike Didier said part of the problem is that noise ordinances are difficult to enforce. The town can write a citation, but too often, it will be thrown out in court on a technicality, he said.
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs one reason we‚Äôre trying to work with them first,‚ÄĚ he said.
Melichar said he went to the site after receiving Cattelan‚Äôs e-mail, and officials there told him they‚Äôre doing all they can.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôre working their way through corporate,‚ÄĚ he said.
But the neighbors said they keep getting promises and not action from the firm, and they‚Äôre sick of it.
‚ÄúWhy can‚Äôt they just put hay bales around the fence?‚ÄĚ asked Howarth. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs worth a shot. It‚Äôs got to be better than nothing.‚ÄĚ
Melichar said this might be a solution, at least until the company installs acoustic fencing.
‚ÄúI‚Äôll talk to them tomorrow. I‚Äôll take a semiload of straw there and donate it,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThat should help.‚ÄĚ
But Cattelan told the board it needs to keep the pressure on Briggs & Stratton to solve the problem.
‚ÄúI hate coming to complain to you as much as you hate hearing from me, but without pressure, noting will happen,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúOur best approach is to force them to be friendly neighbors.‚ÄĚ