Andover businesses may have been already doing it, but loading and unloading goods outside its stores during the night was technically not allowed if they made any noise that neighboring residents could hear.
Now that the Andover City Council has revised an old city ordinance, semis and other trucks can now deliver and pick up goods when others are sleeping, but they must abide by noise standards that can be difficult to enforce.
This decision matters for people like Brenda Hanson, who lives south of Target near the business’ loading and unloading area and whose complaint caused the city to address this issue.
As a neighbor of Target, Hanson hears the trucks dropping trailers in the unloading area and trucks hitching onto trailers.
David Witte, another neighbor who lives farther down the road and is not as impacted by the noise, drove trucks for a good portion of his life and knows how irritating these sounds can be. The steel to steel impact of a truck hitching onto a trailer can be especially loud, he said.
“If you have trailers being dropped and hooked up to on a fairly regular basis at night, that does create fairly significant noise,” Witte told the Planning and Zoning Commission at a July 9 public hearing. “I can understand when you are living in close proximity to a commercial area, that activity taking place could be annoying and disturb your sleep.”
This issue also impacts more than people living south of Target. The truck docks on the north side of the future Walmart on the old Pov’s Sports Bar site faces a neighborhood and noise was one of the big concerns these residents had when the council was reviewing the development proposal.
Community Development Director David Carlberg said Walmart will be farther from its neighbors than Target is and Walmart’s truck traffic area will have much more noise screening including trees and a wall.
Carlberg has been informed that Target will be planting more trees next spring to provide a better noise buffer, he said.
Carlberg said Target opened in 2004, two years after the neighborhood to the south was developed. He found no other records of neighbors complaining to the city about noise from Target or any other business such as Festival Foods before Hanson came forward.
Carlberg told the council that if it was concerned about residents being impacted by noise from commercial areas, they should address this with screening options during plat reviews like it did with Walmart. Typically, cities allow high density housing by commercial districts to provide a buffer for the single family homeowners.
“There’s always that expectation when you buy into high-density residential adjacent to commercial that you’re going to have some activities near you,” Carlberg said.
That does not mean businesses can make all the noise they want, but one loud bang from a trailer being dropped is as difficult to enforce as a noisy car driving by, he said.
“We’d have a heck of a time trying to enforce this or get businesses to cooperate with that,” Carlberg said.
When an Anoka County Sheriff’s Office deputy was monitoring the noise levels on the south side of Target from 4-5 a.m. one morning to follow up on Hanson’s complaint, the decibel level was between 40 to 45 in most instances except for one time when a noisy car driving by spiked the reading at 75, according to Carlberg.
Walmart is not open, but it already has drawn a noise complaint because of running pumps dewatering the property during construction. A similar 40 to 45 decibel range was picked up by a deputy on a noise monitor, but he noticed that croaking frogs from a nearby wetland would raise the reading above 50.
Neither Target or Walmart were cited because they did not violate the noise ordinance, but Carlberg said that Target technically broke the old hours of operation rule because Hanson’s complaint came in about 4 a.m. The old ordinance did not allow audible loading and unloading activity to take place between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
The revised ordinance allows this as long as it is not too noisy. Target still would not have violated the noise ordinance with a decibel reading of 40 to 45, however. The reading would have to reach 50 for about 10 minutes of the one-hour before it would be breaking the city’s law. The nighttime rules will be in effect from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Residents of the future Walmart and the council opposed a 24-hour Walmart. While not mentioning Walmart by name, Hanson did comment on the irony.
“You don’t normally allow businesses to be open 24 hours so I’m kind of confused why we would allow business activity, an extension of their business, to be open for 24 hours.”
Councilmember Julie Trude said she understands the neighbors concerns, especially when it comes at 4 a.m., but said businesses must get products and stock shelves when the stores are closed.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org