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Industrial noise can hurt property values

I am one of several hundred concerned citizens who are working together to find ways to better coexist with our Elkins Industrial Park neighbors.

Recently I moved back into town after many years up in the Glenmore hills. I am a professional artist, published author, educator, musician, and was director of Augusta Heritage Center for 26 years. Now in my 80s, I hoped to find myself with more access to my friends and interests, and nearer to my favorite places: the college, the parks, the Arts Center, the many art and music events, and destinations that I could walk to without difficulty.

I found the perfect house, on a flat lot, on a quiet dead-end street, with friendly neighbors and easy access to everything I wanted. Last year I bought the house, and moved in by Christmas. It was everything I wanted… except for one thing I hadn’t counted on: I found myself at all hours of the day and night saying, “What’s that awful noise?”

There was always a dull roar, which was sometimes tolerable, sometimes impossible; but many times there was also a deafening, clanging sound. It seemed to me that whenever I stepped outside I heard it, even late at night. I started to hear friends complaining about it. I also noticed that my furniture and windows are always covered with dust, something I’ve never seen in the 44 years I’ve lived in the Elkins area. It’s especially bad on my back deck.

Some of us began meeting to discuss the noises. We circulated a petition which was signed by over 200 residents, and soon formed a group which has been meeting to address this problem. EMIQ stands for Elkins Make It Quiet. Perhaps we would be better described as Elkins, Make It Quieter!

We are not trying to drive away businesses or close down those that we have; we only wish to help our existing (and future) businesses to be better neighbors in this small, energetic town that has always been a mecca for artists, musicians, snow birds, and retirees.

We think that the Hamer Pellet Plant is creating most of it, but they have insisted it is not them. That is why we offered to raise the money for a professional study of the noise problem. With the help and advice of Ed Bowes, a professional sound engineer, we have learned that the cost of such a study would be around $4,500, which we are willing to raise and contribute.

Several of us have tried to contact the Hamer Company and drive to their main headquarters in Kenova to offer this, but we have not been granted a meeting. We tried to “attend” a meeting of the Rules and Ordinance Committee of the City Council recently, but were not able to speak. We were surprised to learn that Mr. Steve Hamer had come to speak at that meeting; we had been told that only the Council members would be allowed to speak in person.

Had we known he would be here, we would have loved an hour of his valuable time. He would have learned that we are not extremists trying to shut down their Elkins operation; we want to see it thrive and coexist with the community, as we try to coexist with them.

Elkins has numerous beautiful buildings that are on the National Register of Historic Places. We have many long-standing events that attract thousands of visitors from all over. The city of Elkins, with its many tourist attractions, was here long before the Hamer Pellet Plant.

Some of us discovered this community through our interest in the arts, as well as the beauty of the surroundings and the hunting, fishing, and skiing that thrive so near to us. Many of us have raised our families here; some have lived here for generations, and would love to keep their future generations here as well.

All of us who own property here worry about this property becoming less valuable and even impossible to sell by ourselves or our heirs. As someone who just purchased and made improvements to an old house using a big chunk of my retirement money, this is a problem that won’t go away until the quality of the environment is improved.

Margo Blevin Denton

Elkins

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