Battle royal in Stacy over Royal noise issue

As the noise from Royal Concrete Pipe in Stacy remains unabated, the noise at City Hall remains unabated, as well.

Stacy resident Tim Friberg, who had previously complained about the noise to city officials, returned to the Aug. 13 council meeting with another contingent of outraged neighbors. Leonard Pec, of Fernwood Circle, said he wished to register “an official report.”

“I’ve been doing it (registering noise complaints about Royal) now for 13 years with no avail,” he said. “I think a lot of it’s unnecessary, and things could be put in place to control it.”

Pec noted when he moved to the city 15 years ago he barely knew the business was there. He said the owners and managers in the past were “cordial” and added that when there were problems, even in the middle of the night, the problems were corrected.

Mayor Mark Utecht read a complaint letter from Royal Concrete neighbor Paul Witkowski. Witkowski was also present and stated he has been awakened at 2 a.m. repeatedly by noise from the business. He said there was no relief regarding his previous complaint in July. Utecht repeated he has tried to get Royal to work with the city and the neighbors, but has been unsuccessful. He apologized that more could not be done.

The council had discussed with residents whose homes are adjacent to the business the strategic move to call law enforcement and request a noise reading. The neighbors did and reported to public officials the Chisago County deputy who responded said, “There is nothing to go on.”

A second deputy reportedly advised he knew of plans to hold a meeting among all parties. But Utecht said he has not succeeded in getting all parties to hold a meeting.

“I don’t want any business to have to suffer, but if they’re doing something inappropriate, they have to correct it,” he said.

Utecht then advised his constituents that he and law enforcement personnel from the Chisago County Sheriff’s Office had reviewed city noise ordinances and deemed they are too vague to enforce. Utecht said the group had also researched Minnesota State Statute 116.07.c and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency rule 7030, both addressing noise pollution. He said municipalities are prohibited from enacting any sound measures stricter than state statute or the PCA, and the statute was written specifically to protect businesses. The solution would be for the city to adopt state statute and rules into the ordinance. According to the statute and rules, the noise pressure must be gauged over time. The mayor said a sound study would be “a significant expense” and may prove to be an aggravation and a waste of time.

Councilor Jim Ness’ opinion is that the sheriff could enforce state statute. He termed it “an excuse” to state they could not do so. Ness said he felt a sound study should be done. A sound study would cost approximately $150 per hour.

Pec said he was involved with a sound study 13 years ago. Pec described the process as “people sneaking around, putting equipment in the trees.”

“The problem was Royal Concrete knew they were coming, so the noise ceased,” he said.

Councilor Charles Lucia asked if residents could conduct the sound study on their own, but City Attorney Peter Grundhoefer said either the city or a trained vendor would have to do it, or the results could be seen as flawed. Utecht agreed.

“Personal readings won’t hold up,” he said.

Friberg thought the state is obligated to provide the service of a sound study.

“The government wrote the law; they should be obligated to enforce it,” Friberg said.

Grundhoefer offered another opinion: The issue falls under the nuisance section of city code, and the City Building and Code Inspector Jack Kramer should work on the issue with law enforcement under the nuisance ordinance.

Witkowski and Pec concurred that there is a state statute that covers nuisance issues that Kramer could pursue. Utecht asked if Grundhoefer could research the nuisance language, hoping it is more appropriate to act under.

Thus far the mayor has tried to settle the complaints through “five meetings and dozens of phone calls.”

“I was trying to encourage them to be a good neighbor and it didn’t work,” he said.

There will be a special meeting Aug. 27 to follow up on the noise complaints.

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