Life is getting louder for a St. Albert couple living adjacent to St. Albert Trail.
Mark and Caroline Tuttle, 15-year residents of Sheridan Drive, received a letter on Oct. 4 informing them that the city planned to remove a portion of the sound barrier wall that separates their property from St. Albert Trail.
Demolition was slated to begin just five days later.
“They were citing that because of the age of the wall and some structural problems that they were having with the wall that they were going to be starting a program of removing panels,” Mark said.
The letter indicated a total of three panels would be taken from the barrier wall bordering his property, although four were removed on Monday. (The horizontal panels are stacked on top of one another to form the barrier.)
“Before, we used to see the very top of the St. Albert Inn. Now we can see the top three stories,” he said. “Of course, if we can see there, they can see us.”
In addition to privacy concerns, Tuttle said he has already noticed an increase in noise.
The Tuttles have contacted their lawyer and are considering pursuing an injunction to stop the city from furthering construction.
“It looks like we will have to in order to get the city’s attention because they’re not returning phone calls, so they obviously have decided that stonewalling is better than communicating,” Tuttle said.
Sue Howard, capital projects manager, said the panel removal program will extend the walls’ life for up to a decade and is needed to ensure safety.
“We’re doing this project to make sure that there’s safety of pedestrians and vehicle traffic and so homeowners on the other side of the wall don’t have panels falling down anymore,” she said. “We just really need to get this done from a safety perspective.”
Both the east and west side of the barrier wall were constructed in 1985-1992. A study in December 2010 highlighted a need for repairs, at a cost of roughly $200,000.
Shortly after receiving the letter, Tuttle contacted Mayor Nolan Crouse and city administration, who agreed to start construction at the side furthest from the Tuttles to give both parties more time to negotiate a solution.
Negotiations have been ongoing for roughly three weeks, and include the city’s proposition to provide and install trees in place of the missing panels.
“Our lot is the one that backs right on to the empty former gas station,” he said, adding the wall is higher in this location. “Our lot would be the most affected by all of this construction or destruction.”
Tuttle said the city vowed to not do anything until a resolution was met, however, this was not the case.
“We have been negotiating with them to find a resolution, keeping in mind that the wall does have to come down,” Howard said, adding she expects the city to move ahead with installing trees if it is acceptable to the homeowners.
Howard said other options were considered, like putting up lattice in place of the absent panel, however, strong winds could break the lattice and send materials into traffic.
“My wife and I are, of course, upset that our privacy has been breached and we feel that our property value has certainly gone down. We spent a lot of money renovating this house, we spend a lot of time in our backyard and it’s just not like it was,” he said.
Decibel testing was performed by the city prior to the panel removal and will be performed again next spring to see what impact the panel removal has had on noise levels.
Howard said the testing cannot proceed with snow on the ground, as it will impact the reading. She said, however, the sound level changes are expected to be negligible.
Last spring, homeowners living behind the barrier wall were offered gift cards to the Enjoy Centre to purchase vines to drape over and beautify the barrier wall, courtesy of the Mayor’s Beautification Program.
The Tuttles’ took them up on this offer, but said these plants will likely be destroyed as the panels are being removed.
A handful of other homeowners have queried the city, although Howard said they seemed satisfied with the information they were given.
The city plans to completely reconstruct the wall in the next decade although no design work has been completed to date.