Nighttime construction brings noise complaint in Urbana

URBANA — Main Street resident David Kraft is going to have trouble sleeping this week as construction crews repave several streets in downtown Urbana.

Kraft's complaint is that the city seems to be violating its own noise ordinance, but no one seems interested in enforcing it.

The city, meanwhile, says the street work is being done overnight to minimize danger and inconvenience for drivers and people who use downtown Urbana during the day.

"Sometimes we have to do work at night for the greater convenience of the public," said Bill Gray, Urbana's public works director.

The city's noise ordinance prohibits construction work within 600 feet of any residence during the hours of 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. This week, crews have been grinding away at Main Street between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. as part of a project that will repair the surface of that street, as well as Water and Race streets and Broadway Avenue.

It's a full week of nighttime work and not exactly a good dream for Kraft, who lives right above the work near the intersection of Race and Main streets.

"Mentally and physically, I'm not in good shape," Kraft said.

The city's construction noise ordinance does make an allowance for cases where "the use of such equipment or tools is necessary to address an emergency which, if left unaddressed, would cause or create harm, danger, or serious inconvenience to any person or property."

Gray said city department heads — specifically himself, the police chief or the mayor — can agree to waive enforcement of the ordinance in special cases. Street work in downtown Urbana is one of those cases "to minimize danger, to increase safety, to minimize disruption to the motoring public," Gray said. "For people who do their day-to-day work (in downtown Urbana), we do that work at night."

Kraft said he spent about 30 minutes on the phone with the police around 2 a.m. and said they seemed concerned about his situation — but they have been instructed to "stand down."

"I'm beyond frustrated," Kraft said. "People are willing to acknowledge that this is wrong, but no one is willing to do anything about it."

Gray said nighttime street work is very infrequent — the last instance he can recall was about 15 years ago — and the city is sensitive to the fact that it can disrupt the night for some residents.

There are few residents immediately adjacent to the Main Street road work, Gray said, but more will presumably hear the work when it moves near an apartment building on Water Street between Race Street and Broadway Avenue. There's another dense apartment building a few blocks south of the work at Illinois and Race streets.

Those residents — as well as area businesses — are notified of the work before it happens, Gray said. Kraft's is the only complaint of which Gray has been made aware so far.

"That's unfortunate; we are apologetic to that," Gray said. "But for the greater good, for the people we're serving, we choose to do that work at night."

Kraft said he was never notified, but he wants to work with the city to find a solution.

"I want to find something that will work," Kraft said. "I want to sleep."

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eme jota ce wrote on October 09, 2013 at 8:10 am

"...Gray said city department heads — specifically himself, the police chief or the mayor — can agree to waive enforcement of the ordinance in special cases. Street work in downtown Urbana is one of those cases "to minimize danger, to increase safety, to minimize disruption to the motoring public,'"

Three guys subjectively agreeing to waive enforcement hardly sounds like a fair and democratic enforcement of law.  It sounds like someone knows the right three guys.  

If this Kraft fellow or anyone on the street wanted to replace a broken sidewalk in front of his home in the middle of the night (on the same street where they are doing the road work now), would Gray, the police chief, and mayor waive enforcement? 

First, Mr. Gray should point to code-based legal authority to not enforce the laws.  Then, the city should provide clear, objective criteria for non-enforcement that will be applied equally to all residents.  

787 wrote on October 09, 2013 at 8:10 am

I don't think it is possible for the city of Urbana to do any more damage to the downtown area.

pattsi wrote on October 09, 2013 at 10:10 am

This brings to light an interesting planning issue. There is a push for mixed use, back to the arguments of Jane Jacobs--living and businesses intermixed. This is happening across the country as well as Champaign and Urbana. Actually it is good planning from the perspective of density and curtailing sprawl. The downside, however, is how to adjust ordinances to accommodate that areas are now made up of 23/7 existees. If we want to advance mixed use, including living, then ought we not figure out how to accommodate this change in approach?

Joe American wrote on October 09, 2013 at 11:10 am

This is not a complicated project.  The intersection of Main/Broadway has been in shambles all summer with ZERO crosswalk for the pedestrians.  It's already a safety concern and terrible inconvenience for anyone who dares use the downtown - not to mention those who HAVE TO use it - so why not just work all day and get it completed??!!   It clearly should have been completed months ago, and if someone hadn't dropped the ball, this wouldn't even be a story now. 

And for the record, I know from several downtown workers at ground zero that there have been more days where NO workers were present than days when they have been.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on October 09, 2013 at 1:10 pm
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What? Urbana doesn't care to enforce its own noise ordinances?



Bulldogmojo wrote on October 15, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Oh dear the sound of infrastructure improvements poisoning the delicate terrarium-like ecology of Urbana and it's peaceful economic decay. OH THE HUMANITY!!!

What's next drone strikes?