Interim Zoning Update and Viewpoint from your City Council Chair

Noise. Whether it is due to airplanes, early morning trash hauling trucks, or barking dogs, noise is a recurring topic of discussion in South Burlington. Recent review of the city’s ordinances has brought a new level of scrutiny to the subject.

Without much fanfare, city ordinances regularly undergo evaluation and are amended for substantive, or more often, technical updates. In this last round, the review of an ordinance regarding public nuisance has been receiving a lot of interest. At the second reading and public hearing for the ordinance on Monday, March 19, a number of residents were present to voice their opposition to the proposed amendment regarding the times during which trash haulers can conduct business as well as an amendment pertaining to the hours during which dog noise is permissible.

City Attorney Andrew Bolduc presented the amendments that had first been reviewed by council at the February 20 meeting. These included the change to noise generated from cats and dogs to be prohibited between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., and potentially moving the trash haulers quiet hours up an hour from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. However, at that meeting, representatives from both Meyers and Casella companies made what was ultimately a convincing case to councilors to maintain their current start time of 6 a.m. Their reasoning involved avoiding traffic in the morning and afternoon as well as child safety when students are waiting for school buses in the dark during fall and winter months. They also mentioned that the transfer station closing time of 4 p.m. creates time constraints, even with the current hours.

On Monday, Tim Barritt said that he had conducted an informal poll via Front Porch Forum asking people for their opinion on trash pickup times, and of the 25 people who responded, at least 90 percent said they would like to see the start time moved to 7, 8, or even 9 a.m. Barritt said he felt some of the claims made by the haulers at the last meeting were insufficient reasons to keep the early start time. In reference to the transfer station’s closing at 4 p.m. causing time issues, he noted that one of the haulers owns the transfer station. Councilors wondered why the station couldn’t simply be kept open later.

Barritt said that the residents are essentially the customers of the trash companies, and their wishes should be considered. “What do the customers want? Not to be woken up early,” Barritt said.

Resident Curtis Schultze said he understands that trash haulers want to get their work done early, but pointed out that during the summer months school is not in session and that’s when people enjoy sleeping with the windows open. He added that his sleep has regularly been disturbed by trash pick-up before 6 a.m. Resident Tim Meyer concurred and said he would support the 7 a.m. pickup time, noting that at his residence on East Terrace he has been awakened at 4:30 a.m. by trash being picked up at the Staples Plaza and at Quarry Hill.

This information led some councilors to wonder about a change in the ordinance for summer months to move trash pickup to a time later in the day. Tom Chittenden has met with both Chapin Spencer, director of public works for Burlington as well as South Burlington’s Director of Public Works Justin Rabidoux, about the possibility of exploring consolidated municipal trash service. He thinks that moving toward this concept could help resolve multiple issues. Chittenden said that 80 percent of municipalities operate with this model, therefore, there are a number of templates from which to choose. Chittenden believes this method would create greater efficiencies, decrease prices for customers, and lessen the impact to roads, all while keeping competition in the marketplace. Engaging haulers in a productive matter would be the next step, in his eyes.

Next, the conversation shifted to the issue of noise from barking dogs. This topic has remained at the forefront of council considerations since the November 2017 closure of the Jaycee Dog Park due to noise complaints from a resident whose home abuts the park.

But at issue for Christine DiBlasio, who runs her psychotherapy practice at Stonehouse Associates, just off of Hinesburg Road, the daytime barking from nearby dog boarding facility, Happy Tails, has become a true nuisance, even when her windows are closed. DiBlasio pointed to the dichotomy of wanting to change the hours for trash pickup to give more peace and quiet to residents, while keeping the dog and cat piece of the ordinance the same, which actually permits the noise during daytime hours. On a recent work day, DiBlasio reported four and a half hours of constant barking. She has recorded the noise in her office and has kept logs as well, which she will forward to councilors. “If the ordinance is only in affect at night, we have to go through hoops to get the day barking addressed,” DiBlasio said.

Al Senecal, a property owner whose land abuts the dog care facility, said he was intent on constructing office buildings similar to those nearby, but has now become hesitant, due to the noise. Brad Dousevicz, real estate developer for the adjacent Rye Meadows neighborhood, said he is in the process of building fifty homes and the canine daycare facility affects the marketability of those homes. He said he has logged complaints with the South Burlington Police and animal control and nothing has happened. “You need more teeth to the ordinance,” he said.

The counselors took in this feedback and agreed to continue the public hearing at their April 16 meeting.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent


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