Wal-Mart Store #3803 at 515 Sawmill Road in West Haven, Connecticut has been making some noise in the media recently — but its not the kind of noise the company wants to hear. TV. Channel 8 reports this week that neighbors of the West Haven Wal-Mart want to give the Mayor of their city an earful regarding their noisy commercial neighbor. West Haven Mayor John Picard has an “Office on the Road” program in which he goes out into the community to listen to the public — and this week he’s going to hear plenty about Wal-Mart. The city turned a deaf ear to residents when this huge retail store was being proposed. The neighbors were concerned about the traffic, light and noise impacts of a store so close to residential property. This store first opened on March 21, 2007. According to Wal-Mart’s press release at the time, the new store “brings new economic benefits to the area.” But all it brought neighbors was more traffic and noise. At the time, Mayor Picard was effusive in his praise for the project. “The West Haven community is looking forward to a productive corporate partnership with Wal-Mart,” Picard was quoted by Wal-Mart’s PR department. But the 141,980 s.f. store thought that giving the community “many appealing elements… including earth-tone colors, concrete and wood laminate flooring throughout the store, wider aisles and energy-efficient lighting,” would keep the neighbors happy. But neighbors don’t care about the wood laminate flooring — they say they can’t put up with the racket the store makes. The store’s Tire & Lube Express, with its hours from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., seven days a week have forced the neighbors to seek out the Mayor. Mayor Picard is coming to the Wal-Mart on August 21st for his ‘Office on the Road’ program, but neighbors in West Haven say they have been shouting about the noise problems for more than a year, with little result. One neighbor who works nights, told Channel 8 he can’t sleep during the day because of the store’s noise. The neighbors say they have met with Wal-Mart, but the volume is still turned up. The Tire & Lube Express was designed to be closest to nearby homes. Residents have pleaded for a sound barrier, or fence, or even air conditioning for the auto center so the garage bay doors could be closed during store hours. But Wal-Mart has done nothing. So the Mayor is coming to sit in the Wal-Mart Personnel Office for 4 hours in the afternoon, and he’s not going to like what he hears.
This project should never have been approved during the planning process with a tire and lube auto center located near homes. This was the city’s fault. The noisest parts of a Wal-Mart operation are its loading docks, and its TLE store. If officials and the neighbors say nothing, Wal-Mart will put these functions anywhere they want. But these are not residential-friendly features of the store, and communities have found out the hard way that Wal-Mart can be a very noisy neighbor. Even sound walls and other ‘mitigation’ factors provide little relief. As one resident who has lived next to a Wal-Mart for years told Sprawl-Busters: “If you’re loving Wal-Mart, you ain’t living near Wal-Mart.” Residents battling big box stores should insist that municipal officials ask for an independent noise study to be conducted for every proposed Wal-Mart — and not allow the company to present its own studies to suffice. Neighbors need to make noise during the hearing process — not a year after the store is built. The residents of West Haven will be heard, but they are raising their voices too little, and too late. Readers are urged to make two calls to support these West Haven taxpayers: The first call is to the West Haven Wal-Mart, at (203) 931-2081. Ask for the store manager, and tell him: “I hope you can hear your neighbors complaining about the noise your store generates. It’s time to turn the volume down at your store, and recognize that you’re operating in a residential neighborhood.” Then place a second call to Mayor Picard at (203) 937-2081 and tell him: “Mr. Mayor, you welcomed the Wal-Mart store on Sawmill Road — but you allowed a residentially-incompatible store to be built. This store is nearly the size of three football fields, and the company has taken no steps to appease the neighbors’ complaints over noise. When this store opened in March of 2007, you promised it would mean a ‘productive corporate partnership with Wal-Mart.’ Now’s the time for you to demand a better partnership, and bring some relief to the homeowners who have put up with the brunt of this un-neighborly conduct on Wal-Mart’s part. The neighbors have said it loud and clear — — now its time for the city to get Wal-Mart to tone it down.”