Noise-quieting solutions emerge for Walmart on Yelm Highway

Lacey’s community development director delivered a Walmart noise update to the City Council on Thursday night, outlining several steps that have taken place to address neighborhood concerns.

Rick Walk’s report to the council came as a result of neighbors who have complained about noise and related issues emanating from a smaller-format Walmart grocery store that opened next door to the Summerwalk subdivision about five months ago.

Both the subdivision and Walmart are off Yelm Highway, east of College Street. The store operates 24 hours a day.

The following are the noise-quieting solutions offered by Walmart, according to Walk:

• Walmart employees will take breaks/smoking breaks on the south side of the store.

• A roll-up door for grocery carts will not be used.

• A parking lot sweeper will be used only during the day, not between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Still up for discussion is whether Walmart will turn parking along a fence that separates residences from the store into employee-only parking. That was one request made by Summerwalk resident Karla Wooster, who shared her noise concerns about Walmart with the council last week. Wooster could not be reached Thursday night.

Walk said Walmart so far is directing employees to park along the fence line, but it is not requiring them to park there because the store still wants to make that available for customers. But another discussion about employee-only parking is still to come, Walk said.

“If you can get them (Walmart) to do that, that will solve a lot of it,” said Councilman Lenny Greenstein about noise and parking along the fence.

He added that employee-only parking there would result in lower vehicle turnover because workers likely are going to put in an eight-hour day.

The city also is still conducting noise tests in the area, and some of that data show that a lot of noise is coming from Yelm Highway, where vehicles travel faster, Walk said.

But two new buildings, one of which is for a Mod Pizza, are under construction along Yelm Highway, and that should further block some noise to the Summerwalk subdivision, he said.

As for car doors shutting, or the “beep, beep” of car doors locking, those staccato-type noises don’t necessarily violate the city’s noise ordinance because they are short in duration, Walk said.

The city, along with the homeowners’ association, Summerwalk developer Hall Equities Group of Walnut Creek, Calif., and Walmart have been working on the noise issue for several months. Part of that effort produced an 8-foot fence that was erected between the store and Summerwalk homes.

On the residential side of the fence, black sound-proofing material was added. Wooster and her neighbors, though, say the material is ugly and could hurt property values.

Deputy Mayor Cynthia Pratt asked Walk whether a mural could be painted on the material. He’s not sure paint will adhere to the material. He added that the HOA is free to paint it, but the developer will not, Walk said.

“They do want to be a good neighbor,” he said about Walmart, “but they also want to be able to operate their store.”