A total of 35 new jobs created by the expansion of The Door Stop could go to Chandler instead of Payson if the town doesn't provide assurances that it will not pass an overly restrictive noise ordinance.
Jim Hill, owner of The Door Stop, says he is definitely expanding, and he must decide by the end of the month where to build his new facility.
"If the noise ordinance appears that it will limit us to two shifts, I can't do it here," Hill said. "I can't be competitive with the type of machinery and building investment with two shifts when my competitors and rivals are doing the same thing in three. If I go to two shifts, it means I have to increase my investment in fixed costs by 50 percent to do the same thing in 16 hours a rival does in 24."
Unfortunately, the town is only in the earliest phase of developing a noise ordinance. At its April 22 meeting, the town council asked Community Development Director Bob Gould to prepare a draft ordinance for its consideration.
Town Manager Fred Carpenter doesn't expect to see that draft before the council until June -- past Hill's deadline for making a decision on where to expand.
Worse yet, Hill is afraid the ordinance Gould will bring back to the council will be based on the most restrictive noise ordinance in the Valley, that of the city of Tempe. It is the model preferred by Citizens Against Noise and Industrial Travesties (CANIT), a group comprised of Mazatzal Mountain Air Park subdivision residents who have complained about noise levels at The Door Stop's existing facility in the Sky Park industrial complex.
In a letter to Carpenter, Gould and Councilor Dick Wolfe dated April 28, Hill expressed his concern:
"Tempe is a landlocked community, with little or no interest in attracting industrial operations and manufacturing jobs into its ‘college town' borders ... Of all the Valley communities, Tempe has the fewest major manufacturing businesses, and the tool they use to accomplish their goal of discouraging serious manufacturing is the noise ordinance."
The Tempe ordinance allows a maximum of 65 decibels during the daytime and 55 decibels at night in a manufacturing zone. The Door Stop's current operation averaged 60.02 decibels at its property boundaries during 400 readings taken on 37 different days -- about the noise level of an average restaurant at lunch time.
By comparison, the noise level of typical office space averages 45 decibels, while the sound of a passing car produces a noise level of about 70 decibels. While Hill has designed his new building to be built in a horseshoe shape to further reduce the noise from the dust collectors, he claims the Tempe standards are still too restrictive.
"That prevents us from having a night shift," Hill said. "My rivals are in areas that are 75-75. The can make all the noise they please."
Hill also produced the "Subdivision Public Report" for Mazatzal Mountain Air Park units 1 and 2, a copy of which each homeowner accepted. Under "Subdivision Characteristics," the following "Hazards or Nuisances" are identified: "Adjacent to Payson Airport and Sky Park Industrial Park. Operation of aircraft will create airplane traffic noise."
Airplanes on an airport runway produce an average of 120 decibels.
"The people who have signed an agreement saying they're aware these nuisances are here have chosen to ignore two of them, but to object about the third," Hill said.
That attitude, he believes, is not cause for optimism regarding a possible compromise.
"The fact of the matter is that these people will not be happy until they can't hear us," he said. "As far as they're concerned, if the sound is detectable, the sound is objectionable and therefore it's a nuisance."
Hill says he will continue to try to reduce noise levels voluntarily to be the very best neighbor he can be, but he also says he can't gamble that the town will pass a noise ordinance that will allow him to build his new facility in Payson.
"If it turns out that this is not a manufacturing friendly environment, I'll leave now," he said. "We're not going to wait until we can't leave."
Carpenter responds that he cannot give Hill any assurances.
"That's all I can say," Carpenter said, "because we haven't done the work yet. We'll do it as expeditiously as possible."
Unfortunately for Hill, that's probably not soon enough, and he can't understand why the town isn't willing to work with him on the matter.
"We're going to have a $6.5 million payroll somewhere," he said. "It seems to me Payson can use that. They've been fighting for so long to come up with industry that's clean, that doesn't use very much water.
"We're here, and we want to expand here."