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.