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Noise ordinance balances making a living with quality of life


Last updated 2/5/2015 at Noon

When your next-door neighbor told you about the remodel he was going to do, you probably congratulated (and envied) him.

But when the construction crew began showing up at the break of dawn each day, and continued hammering, sawing, cranking up some godforsaken hip-hop music, and otherwise assaulting your hearing well into the evening, you may have felt less kindly about the project.

Following a lengthy discussion and some compromise, the Mukilteo City Council on Monday passed a Construction Noise Code Amendment Ordinance aimed at addressing residents’ concerns about noise while acknowledging contractors’ needs to make a living.

Previously, contractors were permitted to begin work at 7 a.m., and continue working until 10 p.m. on weekdays. Permitted hours on weekends and holidays were 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

While staff had proposed new hours of 7 to 7 weekdays and 9 to 6 weekends and holidays, comments by the public and by Councilmember Ted Wheeler, a contractor himself, produced a compromise.

Contractors now will be permitted to work from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 9 to 7 weekends/holidays.

The new ordinance also gives city staff and police new power to issue citations to contractors who violate the time restrictions.

The new ordinance does not address general noise limits, including construction work done by residents themselves, lawn mowing, leaf blowing and similar homeowner projects. Councilmembers said they would like to visit those issues in the near future.

Planning Manager Glen Pickus said proposals for a new ordinance were prompted, in part, by ongoing complaints about contractors who start early or work late.

“When is it too early or too late for residents to have to listen to construction noise?” Pickus asked the council.

He said the City receives frequent noise complaints.

“I personally field numerous calls about noise in the evening,” Pickus said. “I have to tell them contractors are allowed to work until 10 p.m.”

Whether the compromise will satisfy either side remains to be seen.

Wheeler said the later hours, particularly in the summertime, are important to contractors.

“Contractors depend on the sun in the summertime,” Wheeler said. “Like the farmer says, that’s when they make their hay.”

If you cut too many of those hours, he warned, “You’re taking food off their table.”

Mukilteo resident Joe Nicholson echoed that concern, and warned that contractors might be less willing to take jobs in Mukilteo, such as one-day projects that have to be stretched into two days because of the hour limits.

“Delaying construction times is going to cause revenue decline,” he said. “You’re going to force them to take work elsewhere.”

In addition, Nicholson suggested, “You’re going to get more people who are tempted to break the rules.”

Old Town resident Linda Wooding expressed concern about the ferry relocation and related projects that could create ongoing noise over the course of several years.

“A four-year project of being awakened every morning,” Wooding said. A baby born at the beginning of the project will spend his or her first four years on earth living with an ongoing noise assault, she warned.

But Associate Planner Linda Ritter said the City will be working with another agency – in this case, the Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division – so “it’s easier to keep that under control.”


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