Decibels Rise Over Noise Feud

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Gordon Holm is a retired teacher. Ernie Pritchard retired from ADOT.

The two Mazatzal Mountain Air Park residents don't consider themselves wealthy, an image they say was created by the media and Jim Hill, owner of The Door Stop.

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Gordon Holm, who lives in Mazatzal Mountain Air Park subdivision, points out The Door Stop from the deck of his home. The structure in the foreground is a house, with The Door Stop's roof visible behind it.

"We've got an image of being a bunch of high-falutin' rich, upscale people that are snobbish, and we really aren't," Pritchard said. "In fact, we're just the opposite -- we're down to earth people."

Pritchard and Holm also say the group that opposes Hill, Citizens Against Noise and Industrial Travesties (CANIT), is much broader-based than portrayed by Hill and the media.

"Contrary to what you were (told), CANIT is a third of us here (in Mazatzal Mountain Air Park), a third of Sky Park (industrial park), and a third Country Club Vistas," Holm said. "There's about 15 from each group, about 45 or 50 people."

CANIT was formed to take on Hill over the near constant hum or whine that emits from The Door Stop during its two shifts, especially because Hill wants to eventually add three more buildings and a third shift.

CANIT claims the noise is a nuisance they shouldn't have to put up with and wants the town to pass a restrictive noise ordinance. Hill says he can't meet the noise levels they want in an ordinance, and that without operating 24 hours a day, he cannot remain competitive.

Both sides offer sound level readings to back their contentions, and each disputes the other's numbers.

The Roundup recently took separate readings and compared them to readings taken simultaneously by Holm. On the deck of the home of Dennis Romane, about 30 yards from The Door Stop, the Roundup recorded readings of 66-69 decibels, while Holm's meter registered 68-69.

According to a decibel comparison chart, the sound is equivalent to normal conversation at a distance of three to five feet, but Holm said only one of three dust collectors was running at The Door Stop at the time the readings were taken. He said he suspected Hill had been tipped off to the fact that the Roundup would be taking the readings and intentionally turned most of his equipment off, a charge Hill denies.

Holm also disputed a statement in a previous Roundup story that said airplanes on an airport runway produce 120 decibels, claiming that only larger aircraft emit such high levels and that Payson's location and atmospheric conditions make decibel comparison charts almost useless here anyway.

"That's at sea level on a standard day, and we're at 5,000 feet," he said. "That reduces the noise almost 40 percent. An airplane runs in the 70s and that's the maximum they're going to run up here because of the altitude and temperature."

Holm also accuses Hill of using "1940s technology" and says he could fix the problem if he wanted to.

"He can put a wall around it, drop sound blankets inside the wall," he said. "He could even use hanging sound blankets just like they do in an industrial shop and it would absorb 90 percent of that sound."

CANIT has suspended negotiations with Hill.

"We originally thought we were negotiating with him and thought we were arriving at a solution, then we turned around and got stabbed in the back," Holm said. "He went to the town and then he went to the newspaper."

Pritchard elaborated.

"What Mr. Hill is doing is a media blitz with the town and the paper to influence the town council to give him a free noise level at his location, and I have a problem with that," he said.

Hill says what CANIT wants would require a 20-foot high, one-foot thick lead wall that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. He says he is doing his best to be a good neighbor and that CANIT's allegations are confusing.

Meanwhile, the town council is moving forward on a noise ordinance. At its April 22 meeting, Community Development Director Bob Gould was asked to prepare a draft ordinance. Town Manager Fred Carpenter doesn't expect to see that draft before the council until the July 8 meeting.

Unable to wait, Hill has decided to base his new cabinet drawer division in Chandler, at least for the time being. But he is still talking to the town about a noise ordinance he can live with.

Much of the blame, Holm and Pritchard say, belongs to the town in the first place.

"The town didn't give him, as they were supposed to, the deed restrictions, the CC and Rs for Sky Park, nor did they give him the M1 zoning ordinance, which clearly states that he can't be that noisy," Holm said. "The town created the mess, and the town has to clean up the mess."

Gould takes exception.

"It's not a true statement," he said. "The use is a permitted use up there. I don't know where he gets his zoning regulations from."

The town is holding an open house on noise at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 1.

"We want people to come in and give us their concerns about noise, because we're in the process of drafting the ordinance," Carpenter said.

Mayor-elect Barbara Brewer was emphatic about where she stands on the issue.

"I will support a reasonable noise ordinance, but not one that prohibits The Door Stop from continuing its operation -- a 24-hour operation," she said. "I think we need to protect the employers that have invested millions in the community. You don't go back and retrofit something you encouraged to come here in the first place."

While she still favors "a give and take," she said she questions CANIT's credibility.

Holm and Pritchard say they're not going away.

"We've been called the rich, whiny pilots," Holm said. "We've been called dummies and (expletive) and everything else. I intend to fit the description ... I'll be the (expletive)."

Pritchard is less combative, but also resolved.

"(The Door Stop) isn't consistent with a small town that isn't trying to be a Detroit or Pittsburgh," he said. "More than half of our town is over 55 and retired. We're a mountain resort community. We want them here, but we want them to fix the sound."

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