Monday, October 14, 2013

Noise complaint - Stowe, Vermont

Posted: Monday, October 14, 2013 4:00 pm | Updated: 4:47 pm, Mon Oct 14, 2013.

Spruce Peak resident Richard Grubman filed the following report with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and the town of Stowe:

On Saturday, September 28, 2013 from approximately 08:15am to 09:35am N706CC, a black with gold trim helicopter was witnessed continually flying at very low altitude back and forth and around the mountainous area known as Stowe Mountain Resort / Smuggler’s Notch in Stowe, Vermont. Two witnesses in a mountainside house observed this aircraft flying overhead numerous times at an altitude of no more than a few hundred feet with extremely loud noise that shook the house. Conjecture is that this was some sort of tourist / hospitality / wedding / leaf season sponsored series of flights arranged by or through the aforesaid resort in Stowe. The aircraft was seen landing from time to time in the Mount Mansfield parking lot leased by Stowe Mountain Resort from the State of Vermont, Mount Mansfield being a State Park.

Grubman also sent the following letter to the Stowe Select Board and Town Manager Charles Safford on Oct. 2:

 Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

This letter serves as a request that the Town institute a written noise ordinance. You will recall that similar requests have been made in the past few years, some precipitated by noise coming from commercial establishments such as hotels and restaurants.

The catalyst for this letter is similar — persistent loud noises, often at very irregular hours and on weekends — being generated by Stowe Mountain Resort and its affiliates including Spruce Peak (SMR). SMR’s neighboring residential properties — many purchased from SMR — have experienced increasing levels of noise from a variety of sources. Some recent examples:

-      Loud, late-night (after 10pm) music and partying coming from outside the Spruce Base Camp

-      Early weekend morning banging and scraping of Spruce lift towers being prepped for painting

-      Heavy construction and equipment noises before 8am, after 6pm and on weekends

-      Helicopter landings, take-offs and low altitude fly-bys for photography, etc.

When presented with such incidents, SMR’s response has been “SMR is not obligated to maintain construction hours.  SMR is a 24/7 resort”. It is clear that SMR’s intention is to only comply with the letter and not the spirit of the law. In the absence of a Town noise ordinance properly enforced and requiring compliance, SMR’s noise-creating activities will continue to increase.  They are bad and getting worse.

It should be noted that this is not meant to restrict SMR’s legitimate needs such as maintenance and repair of equipment, etc. necessary to operate the resort, including essential and emergency functions such as critical equipment repairs, rescues, etc.

However, as it stands today, SMR feels no obligation or requirement to limit its non-essential commercial activities, despite their deleterious effects on neighboring residential properties.  For instance:

-      Music and parties continue often until midnight.  They could stop earlier and/or be held in and around the hotel instead of in and around the Spruce Base Camp, which is a ski day lodge

-      Non-essential maintenance such as tower re-painting can be scheduled during regular work hours

-      Construction can also adhere to regular work hours

-      Helicopter usage can be limited for critical infrastructure (installing new lift towers) and for rescues, all other non-essential uses prohibited or subject to stringent advance permitting

Further, it should be noted that some of these activities are taking place on State land leased to SMR and near neighboring State Park lands where the public should also expect a right of quiet enjoyment.

The State’s Act 250 does not provide adequate protection to Town residential areas and the public against the aforesaid types of violations. While the FAA regulates aircraft usage, the landing and taking off in near proximity to Town residences does not appear to be an FAA matter.

Slipping through State and Federal regulatory cracks is what can continue to be expected of SMR absent a robustly administered Town noise control ordinance.

In the past you have seen noise ordinances from other jurisdictions such as Essex Junction, VT. For your consideration, attached to this letter is the Noise Ordinance Affidavit for the City of Cambridge, MA. It is instructive to read both pages to see what commercial noise generators are expected to swear to in writing before undertaking their projects. This has been a highly effective device.  For additional information, here is the link for the City of Cambridge’s full Noise Control Ordinance (Chapter 8.16 - NOISE CONTROL):

It is worth noting that Cambridge’s Noise Ordinance Affidavit refers to “Noise in Residential Area or Affecting Residential Property”. It is clear that SMR’s commercial activities are affecting residential property. It is not appropriate to exempt SMR from all noise generating and mitigating obligations simply because it is a resort. This is their current belief as demonstrated by their actions and comments.

In addition to affidavits, the Town should require acoustic impact studies by independent experts for major, permanent proposed installations such as the zip line before allowing them.

Absent a Town noise ordinance, SMR’s expanding commercial activities (more entertaining, construction, traffic, a proposed zip line, possible mountain biking, etc.) will generate more and more unwanted noise in an otherwise peaceful small valley incorporating a residential neighborhood and abutting Smuggler’s Notch and other State lands for public quiet enjoyment. There can be no expectation that SMR will voluntarily curtail its activities. It is already on the record denying any requirement to do so, saying “SMR is a 24/7 resort”. To date, the State has been ineffective in regulating SMR’s increasing noise generation.

Many towns have passed effective noise ordinances including Essex Junction and Cambridge. Stowe should be among them.  SMR may be the largest potential offender, but certainly not the only one given the growing commercial hospitality and construction activities of the Town’s various establishments, some of which have been complained about before. Now is the time to get in front of this before it is too late.

Respectfully submitted,

Richard Grubman

Owner of 52 Lookout Lane


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