Whidbey Island County Noise Disclosure over our homes, and Actual OLF Noise

Island County Noise Disclosure and Actual OLF Noise

Does the Noise Disclosure Statement really warn home buyers about OLF? Should buyers feel guilty about reading the disclosure of noise around OLF and then signing it?

It might be helpful to clarify for people who support OLF, and for the buyers themselves, how a buyer might sign the Noise Disclosure Statement and not be warned at all. This is the actual statement:

The Property is located within Noise Zone 2 or 3 impacted area. Persons on the premises may be exposed to a significant noise level as a result of airport operations. Island County has placed certain restrictions on construction of property within airport noise zones. Before purchasing or leasing the property, you should consult the Island County Noise Level Reduction Ordinance to determine the restrictions which have been placed on the property, if any.

If you strip away the confusing wording, all it says is that the airport noise is very loud (significant), and you should check the Island Ordinance first if you plan to build. You are not provided with the 55 page Island Ordinance, nor told where to find it. People refer to this as a “warning,” which is very different from a disclosure. One is concerned with the well-being of citizens and the other is a way to protect against liability.

It would be hard to actually verbalize a real warning. There are no words to describe the actual noise, but the disclosure to home buyers should say:

The loudest jets ever made will be flying directly over your home at a very low altitude every 90 seconds for hours on end, flown by pilots in training, and 13 more jets are coming. There is no reason to believe that there won’t be even more jets, flying even more (including Saturdays), and they will probably get even louder in the future when the next generation of jets is stationed here. People judge your patriotism by your support of OLF. The Island County Commissioners have signed a resolution supporting OLF as the best solution for training and critical to the survival of the economy of Whidbey Island. Therefore, you are unlikely to EVER be protected against an increasing level of noise and crash risk. When you get ready to sell your home, the noise level will probably be even higher, but you will be considered collateral damage. Few will be sympathetic. You’ll have to weigh the moral risk if you don’t fully warn buyers personally, because no one else will do it.

This is poorly worded and not well thought out. I’m not a lawyer. But at least it is honest, and closer to what should be in any disclosure designed to protect the next person when they buy around OLF.

Unless a home buyer had lived on Whidbey Island, I imagine that most people would be like my husband and I. We’ve lived around airports, and even near a jet flight path. “Airport noise” and “airport operations” are not a good description of what happens at a touch-and-go landing field for Growler Jets. Everyone seems to know this is the real situation except the buyer from out of the area or someone from Whidbey who had never actually been directly under the flight path close to the field for two hours while the jets are flying. No one should pretend they know how loud that is just because they’ve seen the jets flying and rolled down their window or have been off to the side of the flight path. The noise is loudest under the airplane as it tilts to land and take off.

Far from warning you, the Noise Map would actually be very reassuring if you were considering buying in the flight path. The Noise Map shows DB Levels in 4 regions of noise. The zones start with 60-65, then 65-70, and 70-75. Our house is in the last 75+ region. No worry, 75+ couldn’t possibly really mean 134 and going up. But it does. Our noise level measures 134. That gives a whole new meaning to a “+” sign. No house is built for that. No life can be well constructed around that.

Both the Navy and the County have their mission. It is the mission of the Navy to increase the effectiveness of their jets and probably will, as it always has, continue to raise the level of jet noise more and more. The mission of the Island County Commissioners is an important list of statements, with protecting citizen’s health at the top. Yet they mislead citizens about the level of noise in the Ordinance and provide no mention of the crash zone (in which we live) in the Disclosure Statement. Most people would want to be warned about that before they buy. The county should align their actions with their mission, and actually work to protect and warn citizens.

Do you suppose the County Commissioners actually think the disclosure is some kind of warning? It looks like a document their lawyer produced to protect the county, to confuse a buyer, and not include anything specific. To protect themselves, the county has ended up reassuring buyers and passing the problem along, instead of dealing with it. They are stuck with a position they can’t be proud of, which could open up all kinds of problems if they tried to fix it.

Many OLF supporters accuse people who live under the flight path of being whiners. The ordinance says my house is in a 75+ zone, but it is really 134, and I don’t like it. Does that make me a whiner? The criticism is very mean-spirited. Some say the whiners should just move. It is easy to say and often said with such glee. It is hurtful to hear, and nearly impossible for anyone to actually do. It is an inaccurate “I’m so smart, too bad you did something so stupid” thing, and a sad way to get a “feel good” without really trying to understand. And, of course, people who move will likely sell to the next generation of whiners because the problem is just passed along, there is no warning, and there really is something to whine about.

I would like the blame to stop. OLF supporters should stop blaming home owners for their peril, and home owners should stop blaming themselves because they signed the disclosure. No one would like getting 134 when you were told it would be 75+. Watch for and challenge the blamers because blaming is a flippant, wrongful judgment when signing the disclosure means nothing. Whining with cause is OK and so is comforting people in pain instead of making it worse.

The County is another matter. They have caused this spiral of blame, and the misrepresentation has to stop. And, yes, I am aware of what that will do to my property value.

I hope logic and a little human kindness will dictate that people who are tempted to criticize others will stop. I also hope that home owners will stop blaming themselves, see that they have been injured through no fault of their own, and make guilt-free decisions about what to do next. The Citizens of Ebbey’s Reserve seems to be the only voice, and at least they present options beyond sucking it up or moving.

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  1. Ann Adams

    Thank you for this detailed information. I live under the planes in Oak Harbor. I bought my house in 1982, before a noise disclosure form was required, so I had never seen one before. For some time I have been reading and posting comments on the comments blogs in the Whidbey News-Times. I have been subjected to the kind of verbal abuse you describe. I have been called a liar, a hypocrite, a troll, a whiner, and stupid. I have been taunted and sneered at and told that my deafness, after living under the planes, is probably due to old age, but is certainly not due to jet noise because jet noise does not cause deafness. Yesterday Joe Kunzler told me to take my no-fly zone and shove it.

    COER has been called a hate group and a terrorist-extremist group. Ken Pickard has been heaped with abuse since before the Janis Reid inverview with him came out, but the abuse of him and of COER has intensified since the interview was published. Since Paula’s letter and Keven’s editorial answer to Paula’s letter (plus additional COER bashing from Keven about the paid ad), it has got even worse. And now Growler Joe is crowing that COER is on the run with the help of the WN-T, and he is hatching ways to punish anti-OLF people with boycotts and threats of publishing names, addresses, and e-mail addresses, the implication being that this would invite harassment of us all from the crazies.

    I hope some of you will write letters to the editor quoting the disclosure form says to show how inadequate it is as a warning. The 75+ equalling 134 db would be understandable to anyone who has ever been fooled by a deceptive guarantee. The COER ad is a clear and excellent statement of COER’s one and only goal, but I’m wondering how many people even read it, given Keven’s undermining of it in the editorial that ran in the same issue as the ad.

    Ann Adams

  2. Neal Sims

    Hey Joe. What gives you any right to insert yourself into this discussion? We don’t come to Sedro W and tell you folks how to run your affairs. Get back in your bus and leave us alone. Not your business.

  3. Diane

    I bought in the Bon Air/Ledgewood area in Spring 2012. I suppose I signed that disclosure but because it was so
    vague, it did not sink into my brain how really bad the jet noise would be. Neighbors with whom I talked (before purchased)
    said, oh yeah, the jets come over ever so often – but its nothing….Well, four or five nights a week, for hours on end, beginning
    at 10PM and going on into the night until about 1 or 1:30 am. — is unbearable. What an injustice, but geez, we in the U.S.
    should be used to that by now….lied to about everything, we are.

    I came out of a very unexpected marital breakup, an auto accident, and a move from a rental that I had expected to live in
    for at least two years; had been looking for a house to buy for nearly 9 months – and found this one that I could afford (but
    that needed major work)….if I was depressed when I moved after all the emotional turmoil in my personal life, I have certainly
    been depressed in the time I have lived – and listened to – this horrible, extremely loud jet noise. God help those whose life
    and country that they fly over and bomb. When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?

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