John Manfredi's Hoffman Estates yard is 500 feet from I-90, but it's not tollway noise that he is complaining about. It's the car racing held each weekend in the Sears Centre parking lot across the highway. And he wants it to stop.
But the village sees these moneymaking events as a way to cushion the blow to taxpayers who are on the hook for the arena's debt. "The benefits are to the community as a whole," Village Manager Jim Norris told reporter Eric Peterson.
Local noise complaints are part of life in the suburbs, where residents usually can expect a degree of quiet compared with big-city dwellers. Most towns regulate excessive noise through ordinances. You can't mow your lawn at 5 a.m., and thumping bass from a car stereo is out of bounds. Late-night parties, construction machinery and train horns are watched closely.
When the noise is more widespread, as with jets at O'Hare International Airport, an entire region takes notice. Last week we called for more dialogue over escalating jet noise in the suburbs. A collaborative approach applies to smaller, more localized problems, too.
In the Hoffman Estates case, one can easily sympathize with both sides. Manfredi and his neighbors have a reasonable expectation of relative quiet most of the time on summer weekends. The objectionable noise comes from the high-performance engines revving during privately sponsored events that run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Manfredi has made a video that shows the volume, which has been measured at 66 decibels -- about as loud as street noise but not enough to damage hearing.
Because the tollway is set below the Ivy Ridge subdivision where he lives, the daily din of cars and trucks isn't as loud as the car races. Tollway officials are planning to construct a wall to reduce the noise to residents. Whether that will mitigate the racing noise is unknown.
For the village's side, the races occur during times the arena property would otherwise sit empty, and they bring in up to $70,000 a year while also generating business for local restaurants. Mayor Bill McLeod admits it's not a huge amount, considering the $3 million payments made on the Sears Centre each year, but he worries about drawing a line at how much revenue an event must earn to justify any inconveniences to residents.
Where noise is the issue, village interests will continue to clash with subsets of residents. In Des Plaines this week, residents are protesting a restaurant's request for outdoor seating on a patio close to their backyards. Creative solutions in these and other cases are needed before the disagreements escalate into finger-pointing and even costly lawsuits.
Suburban residents like their quiet. Preserving that while ensuring economic vitality and safety is a balancing act for every town, and leaders would be wise to host a dialogue when issues come up. As the attorney for the restaurant owner said, "Hopefully things will calm down and we can all coexist." Well said, but compromise on both sides is usually required.