BIG BEAVER, PA. Track noise causes a fuss
Neighbors want sound barriers to be erected to help muffle the noise.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Mark and Laurie Duncan thought they were buying peace and quiet when they purchased 25 acres in New Beaver borough in Lawrence County.
But, lately, it's been anything but quiet, they say.
A new motor sports complex opened last month about 1,000 feet from their Possum Hollow Road home just over the Beaver County line in Big Beaver Township. The constant noise has become a nuisance, they say.
"I don't need an alarm clock anymore; the track wakes me up," Mark Duncan said.
BeaveRun Motorsports Complex opened about three weeks ago off Pa. Route 18 on the site of a former strip mine. The 400-acre facility in Big Beaver borough is equipped to handle street cars, race cars, karts and motorcycles and is permitted to operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
It is still under construction, but a skid pad, kart track and the north track have been completed and are open. Another track to the south should be completed by next year.
The Duncans and other neighbors say they were told a sound barrier would be erected, but none has been built.
"It's awful. I grew up in Washington, D.C., and just moved here from Orlando, Fla., and we moved here because it was so quiet. Now, it's like we live in the city again. It sounds like it's in our back yard," said Lisa Lisjak of Possum Hollow Road, who lives about a mile from BeaveRun.
Neighbors say they have complained to police and others but feel little is being done to address their concerns.
Janet Kolson, secretary-treasurer for Big Beaver borough, said she has received complaints from the Lawrence County residents.
"There was a conditional-use permit granted and zoning hearing board rulings [on the sports complex]. At this point, I think they [the sports complex] are living up to their end of the bargain," she said.
Officials in Lawrence County say there is little they can do about noise from another county. They have no jurisdiction.
But the neighbors say they believe there are things the owners can do.
Duncan and Lisjak realize the sports complex is going to continue to operate, but they want the sound barriers to be erected.
They believe the noise coming from the track's operations is higher than permitted by Big Beaver borough. The borough set up noise control guidelines when it gave a conditional use permit to the facility's owners in 1999.
Decibel levels at the fence of the facility should be no higher than 80, according to the borough council's written decision to grant the conditional use permit.
Duncan said he obtained a state-calibrated decibel reader that measures sound and has recorded readings at the fence of the racetrack as high as 97 decibels. Other readings were in the mid- to high 80s, he said.
Tim Silbaugh, one of BeaveRun's owners, said the company's sound tests are averaging 76 decibels at the fence.
Silbaugh said more sophisticated equipment is being brought in to do more testing.
He attributes the complaints to two instances where cars were on the track outside the 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. provision set up by the borough.
"We had two instances where we had vehicles on the facility that weren't within our time requirement. Other than that we have followed what we are supposed to do," he said.
Seeking a solution
Silbaugh added he hopes to work with the neighbors to solve the problems but noted a sound expert told him that sound barriers at the northern end of the track, near the Possum Hollow Road homes, wouldn't muffle the sound.
"At one point we were going to put a couple [sound barriers] along the northwest border of the property, but after our engineer went through and compared the data, he said it won't make any difference," Silbaugh said. He added those changes in plans were approved by borough officials.
Sound barriers were placed to the west, he said.
Silbaugh said he believes the neighbors will eventually get used to the sounds.
"They are hearing a noise they haven't heard before. It's like moving to a new area, and the first few days, you hear the street. After two or three weeks, you don't hear it anymore. It becomes what we call white noise," he said.
Can be heard inside
But Duncan and his wife say they don't believe they will ever get used to the noise.
"I can't sit by my pool and talk peacefully to someone without having to raise my voice," Laurie Duncan said.
Her husband noted it can be heard inside the house when the doors and windows are closed and the central air conditioning is on.
"It's annoying. Imagine a bee stuck in your ear," he said.