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Sleepless In You Know Where
Snohomish Musings
By David Clay

March 25, 2018


Opinion by David L. Clay, Esq.

(SNOHOMISH, WA.) – Snohomish neighbors who are within earshot of businesses with noisy 24/7 loading docks are in a lengthy struggle with the City to get it to adopt and enforce a nighttime noise ordinance for businesses.

Current municipal code primarily addresses citizen infractions of noise standards but not those of businesses. So, if your dog barks incessantly (day or night) you can be fined but if the business next door keeps you up night after night with the sounds of vehicle backup beepers, heavy metal doors, forklifts, and jarring pallets of goods, you are on your own in seeking any relief.

Neighbors identify the frequent barrage of disturbances emanating from the Fred Meyer store at Snohomish Station as the cause of their sleepless nights.

In the beginning, a gravel pit

Snohomish Station was developed in the mid-2000s on the site of a former gravel pit and includes Home Depot and Kohls as its other anchors. The land was sold to the developer by family members of long-time seated City Council member Lynn Schilaty.

The amphitheater-style configuration of the site allows the noise from Fred Meyer’s loading docks to travel more easily up the hill and into the neighborhood’s late 1960s – early 1970s style homes.

Original construction plans included protective noise and view mitigation features for the adjacent residential area but the developer failed to add those features.

Residents’ repeated requests for a comprehensive noise ordinance which covers businesses have been met by a stonewalling City Council. One resident, Shawn Gay, has tried to work with the City for over two years, speaking at numerous council meetings, providing noise and video recordings of the late night and early morning disturbances.

Initially the Fred Meyer store voluntarily restricted deliveries between 11pm and 5am but noises from forklifts and backup beepers continued throughout the night. One month the City reports it is working to help residents who are then later told they will have to deal with it themselves – and back and forth it goes.

The City has suggested its options in providing an effective ordinance are limited and complicated by the fact the while Snohomish Station is within city limits, the adjacent neighborhood is not.

The annex to the city idea

While the Council has backpedaled on passing a noise ordinance this has not stopped at least one council member from trying to sell homeowners on the merits of having their neighborhood annexed into the city – a suggestion which would be laughable were it not so astoundingly offensive. The City wants more tax dollars but can’t offer any help in solving a problem the city helped create.

Middle-of-the-night disturbances from loading docks are not just limited to Fred Meyers. Residents near Safeway and Haggen grocery stores are also affected.

Sue Davis, who lives directly behind the Haggen store, has also found that voluntary compliance to a requested quiet hours schedule between 10pm and 7am has not worked. Vendors will comply with the schedule for a few days only to return to their 4am deliveries the next day.

How other cities handle the commercial noise issue

In seeking a comprehensive noise ordinance Davis and others researched the municipal codes in the surrounding cities of Monroe, Everett, Marysville, Bothell, Mill Creek and others. They talked with compliance officers and the State Department of Ecology and found that all those entities do regulate commercial noise.

Cities such as Lynnwood and Granite Falls specifically address loading dock noise in their codes. So why does the Snohomish City Council continue to tell the affected residents “we feel your pain” but then not act?

Why has the Council punted the issue down the field yet again in insisting on an expensive noise study to be paid for by the City and the Northwest Grocery Association?

Why does Snohomish City government have so much trouble navigating an issue which other municipalities have long ago addressed?

One reason may be that Snohomish officials don’t understand current state laws governing noise or even their own ordinances. Some council members insist that one local ordinance specifically exempts businesses from noise laws. The City however, has been unable to produce a copy of the ordinance.

The Department of Ecology, which requires local codes that differ from the state’s rules to be filed with the state, also has no record of the exemption. Without the filed exemption, state law then prevails.

Another reason for the Council’s hesitancy may be the less-than-expert legal advice received behind closed doors admonishing them not to pass an ordinance.

Time to make all our voices heard in the halls of power

Whatever their hidden agenda or excuses, no one’s quality of sleep should be at the mercy of a government which insists on policing citizens but gives businesses a pass. In support of our fellow “Snohomies”, citizens and neighbors, being heavily impacted by night time business noise in the City of Snohomish we all need to start contacting the Snohomish City Council by telephone as well as e-mail and demand that they immediately enact and enforce a night time business noise ordinance in the City of Snohomish limiting the excessive noise destroying our quality of life.

Our new “Strong Mayor” needs to get on the right side of this, the citizen’s side. He needs to speak out publicly and work in favor of a protective business noise ordinance like all the other surrounding communities have.

There is no need for an expensive noise study. No more delays from the Snohomish City Council on fictitious grounds. The noise study would not only be another waste of our tax dollars it’s just another signal the Snohomish City Council is not going to act. The reason they won't take action is because the old Council was unduly influenced in a bogus closed-door session last year. What’s the real back story to their continued shuck and jive strategy? Do they think if they can just continue to nod their heads to the affected citizens and do nothing?

Maybe they are hoping that the people will all just be “QUIET!” and go away?

Please contact Snohomish City council members as well as the Mayor and share your comments.

Jason Sanders sanders@snohomishwa.gov 425-327-7754

Karen Guzak guzak@snohomishwa.gov 425-327-6162

Larry Countryman countryman@snohomishwa.gov 425-327-7376

Linda Redmon redmon@snohomishwa.gov 425-327-5748

Lynn Schilaty schilaty@snohomishwa.gov 425-327-6252

Steve Dana dana@snohomishwa.gov 425-327-5948

Tom Merrill merrill@snohomishwa.gov 425-327 6668

Mayor John Kartak kartak@snohomishwa.gov 360-282-3154



David L. Clay, Esq. is a longtime Snohomish resident, professional musician, writer, keen observer of the macro and micro, world traveler and all around bon vivant. You will not want to miss Mr. Clay’s occasional and insightful Snohomish Musings in this section of the Sky Valley Chronicle.



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