Island County Commissioners to review jet noise disclosure forms

A revelation that Island County has two different noise disclosures is compelling the commissioners to review the issue next week.

Disclosing the scope of jet noise that a potential home buyer might experience has become a hot topic since a Coupeville-based citizens group filed a federal lawsuit against the Navy in July over EA-18G Growler landing practices at Outlying Field Coupeville.

The Navy is currently conducting an environmental impact study on the noise from the Navy’s Growlers, which is replacing the EA-6B Prowler. Citizens groups in Coupeville and North Whidbey have complained that the Growler is louder and that the Navy is conducting too many touch-and-go operations, both at Ault Field in Oak Harbor and at OLF.

Navy representatives have said that the Growler operates at a similar noise level to the Prowler, but conceded that touch-and-go operations have exceeded their estimates by roughly 3,000.

Island County commissioners asked Planning Director David Wechner to prepare an analysis of noise disclosure statements and present his findings information during the commissioners’ work session Wednesday, Dec. 18.

“There’s a lot of interest and people are trying to understand,” said Commissioner Helen Price Johnson. “I think it’s important that the county provide this information in a comprehensive way.”

Chapters 9 and 14 of the Island County Code both contain noise disclosure statements but cover different areas, said Wechner.

Island County adopted a noise ordinance in Chapter 9, “Public Peace, Safety and Morals,” in 1992.

Former Island County commissioner Mac McDowell said this “Airport and aircraft operations noise disclosure ordinance” was adopted after the 1991 Base Realignment and Closure Commission, or BRAC, considered Whidbey Island Naval Air Station for closure.

The BRAC process led some residents to voice their concerns about jet noise levels, McDowell said, and prompted Island County to adopt a noise disclosure ordinance to ensure area home buyers are properly informed about what they might expect.

The 1992 disclosure, which is four-paragraph and specifies that touch-and-go operations are performed at “tactical military jet aircraft facilities” and are “scheduled during day and night periods.”

“Additionally,” the disclosure states, “the noise generated by a single fly over of a military jet may exceed the average noise level depicted by the airport noise zones and may exceed 100 dba.”

Despite the existence of the noise disclosure ordinance in Chapter 9, Island County real estate agents currently provide homebuyers with a noise disclosure notice based on the version in Chapter 14, titled “Buildings and Construction.”

The Chapter 14 disclosure contains four sentences and states: “The property is located within an airport noise zone 2 or 3 impacted area. Persons on the premises may be exposed to a significant noise level as a result of airport operations. Island County has placed certain restrictions on construction of property within airport noise zones. Before purchasing or leasing the above property, you should consult Island County noise level reduction ordinance to determine the restrictions which have been placed on the property, if any.”

How the Chapter 14 disclosure came to be the standard for local real estate agents is unclear, and that will be something the board hopes to learn from Wechner’s presentation, said commission Chairwoman Jill Johnson.

“What we are going to hear is a history and clarification of what these two noise disclosures are,” Johnson said.

“There’s a lot of misinformation.”

Johnson said she expects Wechner’s presentation to reveal that both disclosures are valid, but are intended for different purposes.

Jason Joiner, government affairs director for the Whidbey Island Association of Realtors, said he was not familiar with the history of how this version of the noise disclosure came to be the standard for local realtors.

But, he said, “It’s the opinion of our association that we want to disclose as much as we possibly can.”  Joiner added that he believes local realtors would be in favor of a “stricter more informational disclosure.”

The current noise disclosure is an Island County initiative, but the Navy does make recommendations, said Mike Welding, public affairs officer for NAS Whidbey Island.

“The Navy works with local communities to promote development compatible with air operations,” Welding said. “However, the Navy can only make land use recommendations. Local planning organizations control land use planning and zoning, including noise-zone real estate disclosures.”

According to the Navy’s Air Installations Compatible Use Zones, or AICUZ, document, it is not recommended that residential development occur within noise zones 2 or 3 which exceed an annual average of 65 decibels.

“The community’s land use regulatory agency needs to enact land use controls to ensure the highest degree of health, safety and welfare of their constituents,” states the AICUZ document.


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