News from Patrick Flynn

Bumps in the night

With all the attention paid to other items on the Assembly’s most recent agenda, the relatively small contingent paying attention to an amendment to Anchorage’s noise code didn’t manage to break through the background, well, noise.  That may change soon; here’s why:

Noise concerns and complaints spike during our busy summer season as construction, related activities and a myriad of other endeavors increase the level of noise emissions in our neighborhoods.  Add warm evenings necessitating open windows and you have the perfect recipe for conflicts to rise to the fore.

Prior to my tenure on the Assembly I spent a great deal of time working with a wide variety of industries to address concerns related to noise emissions.  This was precipitated by a municipal hearing officer’s decision that changed the traditional interpretation of the existing noise code, making it more restrictive in most circumstances.  Industry wanted legislation restoring the previous interpretation while concerned neighborhoods, particularly those adjacent to industrial facilities, wanted additional protections.  The Department of Health & Human services proposed a compromise that both sides disliked and everyone walked away.

Fast forward to Tuesday, May 24 when, despite objections from some neighborhood folks and my warnings, the Assembly approved an ordinance reflecting industry preferences.  Here’s a redacted e-mail exchange I had with one of my friends advocating for the legislation:

Sent: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 7:21 AM
To: Flynn, Patrick P.


Good to hear from you.  I actually just heard last week that this noise issue had come up again.  If I had known I would have gotten involved a lot sooner as I think it needs a lot more work (emphasis added).  So what was the final vote and where do we go from here?

Sent: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 8:51 AM
From: Flynn, Patrick P.
This passed 6-5, and I talked with one of my colleagues this morning about our next steps.  As the summer season ramps up and the complaints start rolling in the private sector needs to be proactive in addressing them.

DHHS represented that the increased fines in the ordinance will lead to more vigorous enforcement.  I consider that claim unlikely at best and worry that residents affected by industry will be deeply offended that the Assembly allowed higher noise emission levels without a commensurate effort to address existing concerns (one of your neighbors appears to be the flashpoint du jour).  The resulting reaction may spin out of control.

BTW – your mentioning that you just learned about this was at the core of my objection.  I recall how much time we spent on this before and that even an imperfect piece of legislation requires us to engage stakeholders.  That didn’t happen here, and heightens my concern for the potential consequences.



I’d hazard a guess that I’ve spent more time working on noise-related issues than my colleagues (that’s what happens when you work for a railroad) and I’m really concerned this change is going to end badly.  I sure hope I’m wrong…



This contribution was made on Saturday, 28. May 2011 at 01:18 and was published under the category Neighborhoods. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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