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New sound study planned for Walmart

Permit for late operations at Apple Way store will be reconsidered May 17

As is common with new businesses close to where people live, there's been a fair amount of noise surrounding Walmart's recent attempt to extend operation hours of its proposed new grocery store in Raleigh Hills.

The question is whether actual noise generated outside the Walmart Neighborhood Market proposed for the former Zupan's store, 8225 S.W. Apple Way, between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. is enough to disrupt quality of life in the surrounding neighborhood.

Calling for a re-do of a Walmart-sponsored ambient noise study, the Beaverton Planning Commission decided last week to withhold a recommendation on a conditional-use permit to allow operations - included stocking, deliveries and maintenance-related activity - at the store during non-business hours.

Commissioners asked Tobin Cooley, a certified sound engineer and owner of Listen Acoustics, to follow up on his initial noise study, which was conducted on a relatively damp March evening. They asked for an expanded scope of sound measurement under conditions amenable to a more 'conservative' estimate of nighttime noise.

Noting that wet weather, largely through tires on damp asphalt, as a tendency to increase ambient noise levels, Commissioner Dan Maks questioned how much the Cooley's study was affected by prevailing rain and moisture.

'I had trouble buying into ambient level and noises,' Maks said of the study results. 'I can't buy a wet study when I know it's gonna be louder when it's dry. This is not the most conservative estimate of ambient noise.'

Cooley and officials representing Walmart agreed to a follow up study based on drier conditions. Additional sound readings would be taken from second-story elevations and from other angles including north of the store, across Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway.

The permit Walmart requests would allow employees of the Apple Way store to re-stock shelves, clean aisles and display cases, take inventory, sweep the parking lot, and otherwise maintain the property during those hours when no shopping or public access would take place. Other allowed activities include 'small truck' deliveries and trash compactor use.

The Planning Commission in April approved a similar conditional-use permit for a 43,000-square-foot Neighborhood Market at 17275 N.W. Cornell Road, which is set to open later this month.

A 40,000-square-foot store in West Linn, set to open May 25, will be the first Walmart Neighborhood Market - a scaled-down grocery-oriented version of its larger 'supercenter' stores - on the West Coast, said company spokeswoman Rachel Wall.

The 25,000-square-foot Apple Way market is set to open this fall.

Among concessions Walmart officials have proposed to minimize after-hours noise at Apple Way include installing a newer, quieter trash compactor that would run no more than once a day, and allowing only local, 'small-truck' deliveries, with drivers required to shut off truck engines during drop offs. A circular delivery route would minimize the frequency of truck backup signal 'beeps,' a particular concern of neighbors who spoke at the commission meeting.

Therese Lang, a resident at the Crescent Hill Apartments at 8340 S.W. Apple Way, questioned her landlord, Malcolm McIver - who also owns the former Zupan's building and was at the meeting - about his standards regarding after-hours noise.

'Mr. McIver requires us as residents to be quiet between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.,' she said, referring to a provision in her apartment lease and a recent letter to tenants. 'I find it really interesting that since he's the owner of our place and also that place that he has different criteria for his tenants, (and) he's trying to get the (permit) for the folks at Walmart.'

McIver didn't respond directly to his tenant's observations, but pointed out an absence of complaints or controversy generated by the commercial properties. His family acquired the land from Jesuit High School in 1968 and started developing it in the early 1980s. The Zupan's store was built in 1986.

McIver added it would not be in his best interest to support an approach that would increase noise or otherwise diminish his residential tenants' quality of life.

Based on completion of the new noise study, the Planning Commission will reconsider Walmart's conditional-use permit at a meeting on Wednesday, May 16, at 6:30 p.m. in the Beaverton City Hall Council Chambers, 4755 S.W. Griffith Drive.