Lumber rigs that travel alley disturb peace of West George Street residents


November 01, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

When tractor-trailers come through the alley from Schaeffer Lumber Co. and turn onto West George Street in Westminster, Debra Myers says she can feel vibrations that shake the house.

Richard and Gloria MacPhee of Finksburg, who own the house at 20 W. George St. where Ms. Myers and her family live, want the City Council to do something about the trucks. They say tractor-trailers have hit the house several times and the constant traffic generates noise, vibrations and exhaust fumes.

Ms. Myers doesn't criticize the lumber supply company. "It is fairly heavy traffic, but it's a business and they have a right to go up and down the alley," she says.

But she says she and her fiance, Haskell Littlejohn, are looking for a new apartment. Ms. Myers says it's dangerous for the

children -- a 14-year-old, an 8-year-old and a 10-month-old -- to play outdoors.

She worries about the children inhaling the trucks' exhaust fumes. The neighborhood has a high population of children and Ms. Myers says she worries about danger from the traffic to youngsters playing in the area.

The truck traffic includes tractor-trailers that pull into the lumber company's store at Liberty and East Green streets to make deliveries, then go through the alley to turn onto George Street to reach Liberty Street. Flatbed trucks owned by the company go back and forth from the store to the materials storage yard that adjoins the alley beyond the George Street intersection.

The MacPhees' house is on the northeast corner of the intersection inches from the edge of the alley.

City street workers installed a guardrail in the space between the house and the alley six years ago. City public works crews also put in two posts at the corner, "so the trucks would hit the posts and not their house," said Donald Gross, city street superintendent.

The council banned parking on the south side of the street opposite the alley in 1987 to add turning space for tractor-trailers. But the alley is only 13 feet wide, which creates a difficult turn for a large rig. Neighbors say trucks often run up on the sidewalk trying to make the turn.

Ms. Myers recalls one tractor-trailer that left its license plate and mud flaps on the guardrail as the driver pulled away.

"Regrettably, the problem has continued," Mr. and Mrs. MacPhee say in a letter to the council.

The letter gave a brief history of the problems: In March 1989, a tractor-trailer took off a corner of the front porch roof, and the city put in a new, sturdier guardrail. In February 1990, a tractor-trailer destroyed the backyard fence, and Schaeffer Lumber replaced the fence.

Neighbors say they are accustomed to the lumber company traffic.

"It doesn't really bother me that much," says Catherine Close, who has lived at 22 W. George St. on the other side of the alley all her 68 years. "I've just grown used to it."

Her daughter Marie Close says the lumber company trucks rattle and shake, and "make more noise than the tractor-trailers do." But she says she is able to sleep late and is not disturbed by the noise.

She and her mother don't suffer from the exhaust fumes because they keep the windows closed and use air conditioning during the summer.

Mrs. Close recalls one experience with exhaust fumes. She had an upstairs window open one day when a truck with an exhaust pipe extended above the cab went by. The exhaust "came right into the house," she says.

Mary E. Stine, who has lived across the street at 15 W. George for 20 years, says she feels she has no right to complain about the lumber company traffic. "When I bought the house I knew Schaeffer was there. It's just a fact of life," she says.

David M. "Mac" Schaeffer, one of the owners of Schaeffer Lumber Co., said he could not comment last week because he hadn't yet been told of the contents of Mr. and Mrs. MacPhee's letter.

Councilman Damian L. Halstad heads the public safety committee that will look into the situation. He says he looked at the intersection last week, but delayed any further action until Thomas B. Beyard, city public works director, returns from military leave. Mr. Beyard is scheduled to return today.

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