Residents upset over construction in wee hours at Valor Acres  

Neighbors say noise, light pollution starts as early as 2 a.m.

by Melissa Martin

Aug. 2 city council meeting

Several Westview Drive residents attended the Brecksville City Council meeting to express frustration with frequent middle-of-the-night wake up calls, courtesy of contractors working on roadways being installed as part of the Sherwin-Williams portion of the Valor Acres project.

In addition to bright lights pouring through normally dark windows at all hours of the night, residents along Westview Drive say the sound of truck engines and backup alarms blaring in their neighborhood are becoming all-too frequent.

“Last night in particular was a very frustrating evening for myself,” Westview Drive resident Heather Ochocki told council. “I was woken up at 2 a.m. by my daughter, as lights are coming through her windows and she’s asking me what’s going on. … There were three huge lights, an entire building was lit up and a truck with multiple, multiple, multiple flashing lights outside that my daughter was seeing through her window.”

Like many of her neighbors, Ochocki said she keeps her windows open during cool summer days and nights, and the sound of crews working to pour concrete well after dark has made it impossible for her family to sleep through the night.

Her neighbor, Katie Hannigan, agreed, noting the sound of breaking glass and the scraping of rocks is what awakened her three children in the early morning hours of Aug. 2.

“We have video of them out there with light pollution at 2 a.m.,” Hannigan said. “Those of you who have children know how hard it is to raise children who are up between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., let alone to send them to school [in a few weeks where they are] expected to learn and function.”

Making matters worse, Westview Drive resident Denise Paulson said, is trees that served as a barrier between her neighborhood, the highway and surrounding properties, have been removed as part of the project. Consequently, she said, construction noise, as well as noise from the nearby interstate, has only been amplified.

“The barrier is gone and we’re getting it from both sides now – on Miller Road and from I-77,” Paulson said. “I used to be able to sit in my backyard and enjoy the sound of the birds. Now I can hardly even hear them anymore.”

Mayor Jerry Hruby said city hall and several council members received numerous complaints from residents that day, most whom were inquiring as to why the city was permitting construction noise outside of hours regulated by city code. That code permits construction noise during weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

According to Hruby, residents said noise generated by construction vehicles appears to be louder than what is permitted by the city.

Though residents told city officials they understand that construction can be noisy and it’s only temporary, they reminded council that contractors were aware of permitted construction hours when they were awarded the job.

“They’re done working every day by 3 p.m.,” Hannigan said, noting that even on mild days crews don’t take advantage of the weather. “It was beautiful last night. Why weren’t they out there working last night late into the evening instead of waking us all up at 2 a.m.?”

Contractors have indicated they work outside permitted hours because concrete can only be poured at certain temperatures or it won’t set correctly. However, city officials contend the contractor has not requested an exception from the city allowing them to work at night.

Unless contractors make a formal request, citing a specific reason why and how long they must work beyond regular hours, council members say the city and police department intend to enforce the 7 a.m.- 7 p.m. code moving forward.

Should exceptions be granted throughout the duration of the Valor Acres project, council members indicated they plan to provide nearby residents with notice so they can take action to avoid being disturbed by after-hours lights and noise.

“We have to have a reason for changing the times and we have to be able to notify the residents,” Councilman Brian Stucky said. “We need to have a specific reason why the code does not work for the contractor and if we don’t, we’re going to lean on the code.”

Grant request

Monica Bartkiewicz, director of planning and development, told council the city has applied for grant funding through the American Rescue Plan Act. A total of $6 million in funding is available to communities in Cuyahoga County, with the maximum distribution capped at $250,000.

If money is received, Bartkiewicz said the city would use it to install audible signals at the intersection of Route 82 and Route 21; at Route 21 and Winward Drive; and at Route 21 and Arlington Drive.

“This is being brought forward to promote walkability in downtown Brecksville and to ensure residents with disabilities are served and can travel downtown safely,” she said.

Bartkiewicz also said the city soon will explore applying for funding available through the U.S. Department of Transportation Reconnecting Communities pilot discretionary grant program to conduct a study for Brecksville Road, with a focus on the downtown and civic districts, in addition to other assets along the corridor.

The program provides grants for a variety of plans that target main street revitalization, roadway design, linear parks and trails and pedestrian amenities. Legislation explaining the program was expected to be presented at the Aug. 16 council meeting.

In other news, city council:

  • Appointed part-time firefighter Connor S. Mares, who has been employed as a full-time firefighter/paramedic for Parma the past two years.
  • Approved legislation to create a Do-Not-Knock registry, so residents have the option of placing their address on a Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council list. The registry would prohibit utility salespersons from soliciting at the doors of residents on the list and operate in tandem with the city’s existing peddler ordinance.