Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Noise Pollution at Suburban Stadium?

Franklin's Rock Sports Complex is partly on county land. County proposal would study the noise level.

By - Jul 19th, 2020 11:18 am
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John Weishan, Jr.

John Weishan, Jr.

Does the City of Franklin have a problem of noise pollution?  

A County Board committee recently approved a study of sonic issues at a sports complex, built in recent years, in the City of Franklin, with the sponsor of the resolution, Sup. John Weishan, saying the Franklin officials have “abdicated their responsibility” with regards to crafting and enforcing a noise control ordinance.

Several supervisors sitting on the committee Wednesday said they have received numerous emails and voicemails complaining about the sound created by the Rock Sports Complex. Lately, that sound is coming from drive-in movies the complex has been hosting during the pandemic.

The Rock Sports Complex is partially located on land sold to the developers by Milwaukee County. And a piece of the land is still owned by the county and leased to the developers. 

The original agreement between the county ad developers included a noise and light mitigation plan, which included language mandating a sound study. But when the developers hammered out their agreement with the City of Franklin, the sound study was eliminated and never performed. And later, Franklin officials amended their local noise ordinance, raising the maximum level of noise to 79 decibels.

So when the sports complex is hosting events, it can legally create noise pollution in the surrounding neighborhood of up to 79 decibels. A fact sheet from the Yale Environmental Health and Safety Department notes that sustained exposure to noise above 80 decibels may result in hearing loss.

As an issue, the noise coming from the Rock Sports Complex has been bubbling for years. In 2017, the noise was described in a Journal Sentinel story as being at a level similar to “a vacuum cleaner running for hours inside the house,” because that is roughly the amount of decibels a vacuum cleaner produces.

During the pandemic, and shutdown of activity, complaints have centered around the movies they play late into the night at the drive in theater. One nearby resident told Urban Milwaukee that neighbors can clearly hear every word of dialogue from the movies late into the night.

The supervisors voted 3-2 at committee Wednesday, approving the sound study. Supervisors Sequanna Taylor and Liz Sumner voted against, Supervisors Weishan, Felesia Martin and Jason Haas voted in favor. It will go to the full board for approval.

Sumner and Taylor both expressed concerns about whether the county has any jurisdiction over enforcing Franklin’s noise codes. And whether the county, and the Parks Department, can afford to take on a sound study, given how the parks department’s finances have been devastated during the pandemic.

Paul Kuglitsch, Milwaukee County Deputy Corporation Counsel, told the committee members they didn’t have the jurisdiction to enforce Franklin’s noise ordinances. But under the county’s agreement with the developers of the sports complex, it can enforce noise violations through contractual mechanisms, if there are four complaints in a year that are documented as violating the permitted decibel levels.

One Franklin resident that lives near the complex has called the Franklin Police Department at least 20 times in the past year to complain about noise levels from the Rock Sports Complex, the caller told Urban Milwaukee.

Steve Taylor, who was a county supervisor for the area when land sale and lease agreement was before the county board, and was a Franklin alderman when developers of the complex were requesting funding assistance from the City of Franklin for help funding the project, now works as the Executive Director of the ROC Foundation, the non-profit wing of ROC Ventures, the firm that developed The Rock Sports Complex which he supported as a public official. 

After Wednesday’s committee hearing, Taylor wrote on Facebook saying the proposal to study noise issues would go nowhere, the sound was below agreed upon levels, and added “I think we ought to crank it up a notch.”

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Categories: MKE County, Politics

2 thoughts on “MKE County: Noise Pollution at Suburban Stadium?”

  1. blurondo says:

    Recently we’ve been considering traveling for the first time to the sports complex to take in a Milwaukee Milkmen ball game. After reading Mr. Taylor’s comments above, we are not likely to do so.
    Additionally, how convenient that he used his elected position to carve out a position within a newly created business.

  2. Neal Brenard says:

    It’s a reasonable quality-of-life issue that all public officials should be much more concerned about: the violence of uncontrolled noise in areas where people live and have a right to quiet enjoyment. The problem is everywhere and elected officials are oblivious to it. And it’s not just, or even mainly, businesses that are most responsible for noise pollution. Construction contractors and local public works departments are guilty of noise from their equipment and activities, often during early morning hours when most folks would enjoy peace and quiet to sleep through dawn and begin their days. Local officials, elected and administrative, seem unconcerned about the violence of unwanted noise in our communities, the stress it creates to those of us that actually live in more densely populated areas, and the health-related consequences. Good to hear that members of the county board are taking this issue seriously. Local officials in all jurisdictions need to take it seriously as well.

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