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Westfielder Questions Why Town Can't Enforce Noise Ordinance

A state project that began on South Avenue in late September has residents up all night.

Lauren St. Hill is tired. As if working full time, pursuing a graduate degree and caring for her 3-year-old twins wasn't already a recipe for exhaustion, the South Avenue resident hasn't been getting much sleep thanks to a road resurfacing project taking place just outside her home in the middle of the night.

Since the work began on South Avenue, part of State Route 28, on September 27, St. Hill said she and her family have been kept awake by the noise of machinery and yelling workers as well as bright lights flooding their bedrooms.

The frustrated homeowner has appealed to the Town of Westfield and asked that town officials enforce a noise ordinance passed in January of 2011, something she was told by David Triggs, noise coordinator with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Local Environmental Management, is possible. But town officials, including Fourth Ward Councilmen James Foerst and Keith Loughlin and Town Administrator Jim Gildea, have told her the Town cannot enforce its ordinance against the state. 

"Hearing bulldozing and jackhammering between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. is infuriating and has caused a great lack of sleep in my house," St. Hill said. "I just can't believe that the Town is refusing to do anything on our behalf."

"Because the South Avenue road work is a State of New Jersey project and not a Westfield project, we do not control any aspect of the South Avenue project including timing of the work," Loughlin stated. "We hope the work concludes quickly so that life can return to normal for our residents."

Trying to determine when the work will be completed is another matter disturbing South Avenue residents. According to Union County's Bureau of Traffic Safety and Maintenance website, "milling and paving of South Ave has been tentatively set for the week of December 2-8, 2012." But St. Hill noted that no one has been able to provide residents with an end date.

A call made by Patch to Anthony Okafor, the project manager at NJDOT, to obtain additional details was not returned.

St. Hill has created a petition in the hope of putting a stop to the project but Foerst indicated it is unlikely that such a petition would be effective.

"They will not amend their schedule and we as a Town remain at their mercy," Foerst wrote in an email to St. Hill's neighbor. "I appreciate that you have started the petition but regardless of the number of signatures that are received by our Mayor and Council, we have no power over the State of New Jersey."

Triggs has led St. Hill to believe that isn't the case. In an email sent to her on Oct. 26, the noise coordinator wrote, "The following section in the ordinance would apply to construction noise at night: 'All construction and demolition activity, excluding emergency work, shall not be performed between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. on weekdays, or between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. on weekends and federal holidays, unless such activities can meet the limits set forth in Tables I, II or III.  At all other times the limits set forth in Tables I, II or III do not apply. All motorized equipment used in construction and demolition activity shall be operated with a muffler and/or sound reduction device.'"

St. Hill and her neighbors are also wondering why crews were back in front of their homes just one week after Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the state of New Jersey and questioned if the workers and machinery couldn't be put to better use in light of the recent devastation.

Bill November 30, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Then try the governor. He's always trying to get his face in the news to win over people, and he might respond favorably.
Bill November 30, 2012 at 04:21 PM
I like the way Patch tried to get in touch with the NJDOT project manager. Since they didn't get a reply it gives residents the go ahead to go higher.
Joseph December 02, 2012 at 06:22 AM
Even more bothering to us is that some of the large trucks park in front of our house for the entire project. Just as we finally get the last of our four children to sleep they start up their trucks and leave their diesel motors idling for 20 min. Then they proceed to do a K-turn in our driveway flashing lights into our house. Then the back up starts, beep, beep... That's our nightly kick off before the noise. Then we get to do that again when they quit for the night. Now it's the weekend I guess their not working tonight but we get to stare at the construction equipment in front of our house all weekend. I've asked if they can at least park where they are working so that we can limit the burden to only when the work is near our house. That only worked for a night. Whoever approved their permit dosen live on my block otherwise this wouldn't be the situation.
Francesca Russo-Sabino December 02, 2012 at 01:14 PM
As if all that noise isn't bad enough ... The workers have left trucks running all night - unattended - right outside our home on TWO streets! The best thing they've done thus far is to park the trucks right outside the Tiffany Natural Drugs parking lot (Drake Place side) - where people already struggle (on an on-going basis!) with trying to see if motorists are coming while they try to pull out of that lot, and now have to deal with enormous parked trucks obstructing their view even further! :/ My husband went out to speak with the workers and their supervisor last week, suggesting that they park over on Palsted Avenue, since there is nowhere near the congestion that there is on Drake Place. My husband further explained the danger the trucks cause over by the parking lot exit ... There are now trucks parked on Palsted, but there are still obstacles over by the parking lot. In one ear and out the other? Hope this is all over soon.
Bill December 03, 2012 at 03:50 AM
For Joesph and Francesca, We've had 100% support in the past on more than one occasion from the Westfield Police Department when we've had to call about idling school buses from other towns, which idle for 2 hours or more while students play sports at the high school after hours. Sometimes the bus driver sits in the bus to stay warm and sometimes it's unattended for long periods of time. The noise is annoying and the diesel exhaust fills our house across the street. The police have come out and enforced a no idling ordinance for us and the busses turn their engines off. Maybe you can try that with the vehicles that are idling outside of your houses. When the police show up and the vehicles are unattended they will see the problem for themselves. The question is - does the ordinance apply to construction vehicles as well? I asusme it does. The ordinance is meant for exactly the issue you are experiencing.

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