Downtown construction projects, including the work on the BLIS project, prompted many of the noise complaints submitted to the city over the past two years. (Liane Nakahara photo)

Downtown construction projects, including the work on the BLIS project, prompted many of the noise complaints submitted to the city over the past two years. (Liane Nakahara photo)

Sounds like trouble: A look back at two years of noise complaints on Bainbridge

Congratulations, downtown Winslow. You’re the noisiest place to live on Bainbridge Island.

The issue of noisy neighborhoods has been front-and-center in recent months during the city’s review of the controversial Winslow Hotel proposal. Downtown residents and others worried about the hotel project have raised repeated concerns about potential noise coming from the 87-room establishment after it’s built, and the planning commission — in its recommendation that plans for the project be rejected — said the hotel was a bad fit for its downtown location and added it “will result in parking, traffic and noise impacts that either have not been adequately analyzed or are incompatible with the project’s surroundings.”

Opponents of the Winslow Hotel project fear that noise coming from hotel guests and special events, such as weddings or other gatherings in the hotel’s courtyard, as well as music performances at a bandshell and the weekly sounds of trash pickup, will spoil the small-town charm of Bainbridge.

No sound of silence

A review of noise complaints made to the city over the past two years, however, show that residents rarely complain about the noise generated by the everyday activities of Bainbridge businesses.

Instead, islanders are more quick to complain about noise generated by construction activity, according to the Review’s analysis of 70 noise complaints made through the city of Bainbridge Island’s See Click Fix online reporting system.

Of those 70 noise complaints, a large majority — 46 in all — were made by residents concerned about construction noise.

The next largest set of complaints, a total of 13, stem from loud animals; mostly crowing roosters and barking dogs.

Five other complaints made in the past two years were prompted by the after-hours sounds of generators, compressors or septic alarms at local businesses.

Two other noise complaints were filed after a home-based skateboarding school raised the ire of others in its residential neighborhood, mostly due to loud music played for the skaters.

Repair work at Washington State Ferries’ shipyard in Eagle Harbor was also the focus of one complaint, while another complaint came from net-cleaning work at Cooke Aquaculture’s fish farm near Fort Ward.

The least likely causes for noise complaints? Loud venues and early morning deliveries.

A single complaint was generated from a truck’s backup alarm during a delivery, and when it comes to loud venues, the city has received just one complaint in the past two years. But officials said that complaint, made near the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, could not be investigated because it was too vague.

The Review’s look at noise complaints were limited to those submitted to the city’s See Click Fix program.

There’s no doubt that many other noise complaints were passed along to the city in recent years, through informal ways, such as emails or complaints to city councilmembers, or via 911 calls.

Still, complaints made through See Click Fix provide a good snapshot of areas where the continuing clatter of after-hours activities motivated islanders to visit the city’s website to lodge a complaint that would specifically be addressed by the city’s code enforcement officials.

Most of the complaints submitted since July 2017 to the city stem from the largest construction projects that have been built in recent years, both in downtown.

Both developments, The Walk on Madrona Way NE and BLIS (formerly known as Bainbridge Landing), are surrounded by existing, and dense, residential housing.

The Walk has been the subject of 10 complaints, from October 2018 through July 2019.

BLIS has prompted nine complaints; most of them during 2018.

Starting too soon

The Walk is a 38-unit multi-family townhome development on Madrona Way NE that is being built by Clark Construction. It’s scheduled to be finished this fall.

Some of the complaints stem from work starting on the site outside of the weekday restrictions on construction noise that allow work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Other complaints center on work done on Sundays or holidays.

The city’s code compliance officer visited the site and talked about the noise issue with the construction superintendent, according to city records. The general contractor was also notified earlier this year to monitor the crew on site for compliance with legal start times.

Wrote one nearby resident, who also submitted a photo taken at 6:12 a.m. that day: “This morning (7/31) a workman was drilling, hammering and laying parts of the walkway located at the beginning of the complex… This is an ongoing problem with this project (and has been addressed in June) yet it continues. When will this be stopped? This is a residential area.”

City officials said an earlier complaint about work on a holiday, Columbus Day, was not actually a violation because it wasn’t one of the city’s recognized holidays.

Earlier complaints about construction on The Walk led to site visits where the city’s code compliance officer did not find violations. And on one occasion last fall, the construction company had received permission from the city to work on a Sunday.

Company officials said nearby residents had raised more issues related to general inconvenience than noise infractions. Some of the recent noise — loud music and singing — that have been blamed on Clark construction workers have been found to be coming from painters who are actually working on nearby building, one that isn’t part of The Walk development.

Jon Rotste, Clark’s superintendent on site, said the city has visited the development after each noise complaint.

The company has taken multiple steps to reduce noise, he said, including banning radios at the site, limiting weekend work to avoid upsetting neighbors, and keeping workers from yelling to coworkers.

Early morning construction noise at BLIS (short for Bainbridge Living, Island Style) also prompted repeated complaints to the city.

Those weren’t noise violations, however. Residents were told that the developer had received permission for work to begin before 7 a.m. due to an extensive concrete pour at the site.

BLIS is a $43 million project developed by Sound West Group and Olympic Property Group, and includes 107 apartments (studio up to three bedrooms in size) and seven loft-style townhomes in its first construction phase, and 18 townhomes in its second phase. The BLIS Apartment community opened in late June.

Noisy neighbors

It’s not just the largest construction projects that have jangled nerves and put exhausted islanders on edge.

Of course, most of the island’s population is centered, by design, in the core of Winslow. That’s also where the largest housing projects in recent years have been built.

That said, noisy nights and dinful daybreaks aren’t restricted solely to the downtown Winslow area.

A long-running home remodeling project on Fairview Avenue NE prompted 10 complaints from a neighbor, stretching from August 2018 through May 2019.

According to the complaint, there was “ongoing (2 plus years) daily high- decible power tool noise out of compliance with city code. Rude and disrespectful owner diminishes quality of life in the neighborhood. The repeatedly renewed construction permit abuses the system and abuses the neighbors.”

Multiple inspections at the property by the city’s code enforcement official found no violation of legal noise limits.

Beyond construction activities, noisy animals are also a major cause of noise complaints.

One resident contacted police about a neighbor with “a stream of dogs coming in and out of the property, barking all hours of the night and day. We suspect the owner is running some sort of dog boarding business, which is fine, but the barking is out of control.”

The city inspected the property and found no dogs or barking.

Most times, when Bainbridge receives a complaint about barking dogs, the resident is advised to contact the Kitsap Humane Society, which handles animal control issues for the city.

Roosters are another matter. Residents in the New Sweden Avenue NE area raised repeated concerns over “extreme rooster noise” in complaints to the city.

One neighbor purchased a software application to track the decibels and times of the rooster calls over a three-day period.

“The data from this period shows that the roosters would call approximately 436 times a day on average at an average decible level of 80.5,” the neighbor wrote. “The rooster noise is around the clock and intolerable. The noise can be heard from inside our homes.”

City officials, however, said city regulations do not restrict “oral noise from domestic of fancy fowl” and that roosters were a permitted use on the nearby property.

Hotels and noise

No complaints over noisy hotel or inn guests have been submitted to the city’s See Click Fix program over the past two years.

For their part, proponents of the Winslow Hotel have repeatedly noted that the project will abide by state law and local noise regulations.

Madison Avenue Development, the developers of the project, have reached an agreement with Bainbridge Disposal to limit garbage and recycling pickup to between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Plans for the hotel also include storing garbage and recycling bins in an enclosed space, as well as sound-absorbing surfaces for the walls and doors surrounding the building’s loading dock.

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