Door Stop, Neighbors On Verge Of New Agreement

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A flare-up of The Door Stop noise issue has resulted in a possible resolution. There is a new, but tentative agreement between owner Jim Hill and Ernie Pritchard, leader of Citizens Against Noise and Industrial Travesties (CANIT), which both hope will finally end the discord.

But first, all interested parties will sit down by the end of the month, and sign off on the new accord. Dennis Romain, who heads a splinter group threatening to file a lawsuit against Hill, and possibly the town of Payson, will join Hill and Pritchard in the discussions.

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Jim Hill, owner of The Door Stop

The latest altercation occurred when Romain and some 26 other residents of Mazatzal Mountain Air Park and Country Club Vistas subdivisions had a lawyer send Hill a letter threatening a lawsuit for noise ordinance violations.

Hill responded by meeting with his attorneys and drawing up countersuits.

As the legal threats escalated, Hill called Pritchard and the two men -- once bitter foes -- worked out the new agreement.

"Ernie's issue is not to get The Door Stop out of business at any cost," Hill said. "His issue is: The Door Stop's here and they're going to stay here. Let's get the noise down."

If all parties sign on, it will replace a previous agreement Hill and Pritchard negotiated in July of last year that had been put on hold pending the resolution of complaints lodged against The Door Stop by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ).

CANIT, a group of area homeowners, set out to fight what they considered excessive noise emissions from the cabinet door manufacturing facility located in the nearby Sky Park Industrial Park just west of Payson Municipal Airport.

Hill, who faced considerable local opposition when he decided to move his business from Chandler in 2001, contended that The Door Stop was in complete compliance with town codes. Bob Gould, town community development director, agreed.

Hill also argued that an industrial park at the end of an airport runway was about as ideal a place for a manufacturing facility as the town was going to get.

But CANIT contended that the constant hum or whine that emits from The Door Stop during its two shifts was a nuisance they shouldn't have to put up with and demanded that the town pass a restrictive noise ordinance.

The group was especially concerned that Hill wanted to add a third shift.

In January, Dennis Romain, whose home is right across the street from The Door Stop, decided Hill had no intention of reducing noise emissions. While he admitted he personally paid Jaburg & Wilk, a Phoenix law firm, to send the letter threatening to sue The Door Stop, he produced the signatures of 26 neighbors who supported it.

"Mr. Hill says he has spent $20,000 to reduce the noise, but all the readings show there has been no noise reduction since day one," Romain said. "The (original) agreement (Hill) and (Pritchard) reached will not solve the problem; the truth is this agreement is more in Ernie's mind than it is in fact."

The letter, dated March 3, accused The Door Stop of not only making "a constant noise that constitutes a nuisance, but also of a number of unrelated violations of "deed restrictions, zoning ordinances and common law principles." They include spewing "layers of dust," employing a "used building" for its offices, not paving all its parking areas, and not screening trash containers and air conditioners.

Signed by attorney Maria Crimi Speth, the letter demanded a plan to "resolve the dust and noise problems" within two weeks or a complaint would be filed in Superior Court. When he received the letter, Hill's reaction was swift.

"The fact is that these things are really kind of silly," he said. "At some point, even reluctant warriors get provoked enough, and I've reached that point."

Following several meetings with his attorneys, Hill promised that if sued he would countersue for disruption of business.

"The lawsuits we intend to file are finalized and drafted and just waiting," Hill said. "We are not going to sit back and let these people try and run us out of business."

Pritchard, who opposed sending the letter, said he wanted to give Hill time to implement the original agreement. He said most of the 26 people who backed Romain have since reconsidered, in part because they didn't realize the letter was going to threaten a lawsuit.

"In Jim's defense, he wanted to be clean with ADEQ before he did anything," Pritchard said. "It's too bad the letter wasn't held off until Jim Hill did his thing, but it happened."

Pritchard said the agreement he and Pritchard have reached in principle "is going to work. We're going to make it work."

Hill is also optimistic.

"I'm going to put the proposal on the table," he said. "I'm going to tell them, ‘We have been prevented from doing this now two or three times, and if this comes to a lawsuit I will do nothing until that lawsuit is resolved -- and my lawyers believe we're looking at five to seven years.

"But I told Ernie it makes sense to sweeten the pot right now. If they commit to me to drop the lawsuit and not make any further plans, then not only will I do what I said I was going to do, but I will move all the dust collectors on the north side of the building around to the back and enclose the damn things with a wall.

"It's going to cost between $80,000 and $100,000, and I'm willing to pay it."

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