TORONTO — On a nice night, Tracy McCormick sits on her deck and watches planes take off from Pearson airport, cruising so low over Derry Road East that she can see the wheels retract into the fuselage.
More often, she lies awake in bed as they fly over her house. The sound starts off as a low rumble, followed by a buzzing that quickly crescendos until “you can feel the vibrations,” she says. “It’s hard to sleep because your house is shaking.”
McCormick hears several planes per hour, and the noise often continues until 2 a.m. or later. More than 1,100 flights take off and land every day, according to the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, which manages the airport.
But even though the planes disrupt McCormick’s sleep, living one kilometre away from the runway isn’t a nightmare, she insists.
“I love it,” she said, echoing what many residents say about living on Cattrick and North Alarton streets, which form a “V” across the street from one of the airport’s five runways.
The four other runways face industrial areas in Mississauga or Highways 401 and 427.
Transport Canada maintains a noise exposure forecast (NEF) for land use planning. It finds that, above NEF 30, there is significant speech interference (drowning out conversation) and annoyance. In 2005, the ministry advised against residential development in areas of NEF 30 and above.
A noise map of Pearson shows residents like McCormick, whose houses are several decades old, live in an NEF 40 zone.
The properties on her block go for an average of $320,000 — a price “you will not find anywhere else in Mississauga,” said HomeLife broker Vic Dogra, who has been selling homes for eight years. He says it’s because most of the houses are “beginner homes,” meant for buyers who intend to upgrade.
But many decide to stay.
Sherry Smith had to stop and think when asked how long she had lived on Cattrick Street. “Twenty-six years,” she said finally. She can name many neighbours who have lived there longer.
When they do move, their properties are snatched up quickly, Dogra said. He’s shown houses while planes were taking off and landing, and he’s never had a client make a comment about them. Instead, the combination of a low selling price and a convenient location between Brampton and Toronto attracts buyers, according to the broker.
“Pearson has got no effect on sales,” he said.
“If you’re near a subway in downtown Toronto, you become immune to it,” McCormick said, although she adds that, to her, the planes are “50 times louder than the train.”
A subway train 61 metres away registers 95 decibels, while a jet engine 30 metres above registers 140 decibels, according to a study by Toronto audiologist Marshall Chasin. Pain begins at 125 decibels.
For McCormick, the tradeoff is that she feels safer raising her two children in the Derry Road East and Airport Road neighbourhood.
“Here, everybody knows each other and they watch out for each other’s houses.”
Smith and her husband have considered moving, but their house is close to amenities and they like their neighbours. Besides, Smith’s mother moved away a few years ago and says she misses the planes.
“She’s moved up north and she said it’s too quiet.”
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