A woodworking business on a recently C-zoned property along Hansen Road has been approved by the Village Council following an appeal by a nearby resident. Following a hearing November 10, councillors voted unanimously to uphold the Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval of a site development plan for Dendro Technologies, owned by Rick and his son, Jacob Thaler at 4404 Corrales Road. At its September 16 meeting the P&Z commission unanimously approved the Thalers’ proposed site development plan on the condition that buffering walls for noise control be erected on the south, east and north sides of their property.
Commissioners specified that six-foot buffer fences would have to be erected within one year on the south and east sides and within two years on the north side. The primary piece of equipment for Dendro Technologies is a band saw that is used to cut slab planks to make furniture and other purposes. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No. 13 September 19, 2020 “Rick Thaler and Son Open Woodworking Business.”)
During the commission’s September session the primary concern voiced by nearby property owners was noise from the saw —and the subjective nature of the Village’s regulations on noise. Commissioners commended the Thalers for addressing neighbors’ complaints or concerns. Brian Whalley, who lives at 4372 Corrales Road, said his property “runs almost the entire length on the south side, we have had zero complications from the business and welcome it.”
But Antonette Roybal, the person appealing, lives at 43721/2 Corrales Road. She said the noise is “very annoying and it’s constant.” She said normal voice is about 50 to 65 decibels whereas the whine from the saw has been 95 decibels or above. That assertion was challenged by P&Z commission Chairman McCandless. She did not take decibel readings, but offered to provide an audio recording of the noise.
Rick Thaler said he had provided to the P&Z administrator a decibel reading made by an application on his iPhone after he had installed noise buffers. He said it showed “about 55 decibels on the south border when the saw was fully engaged and running. The 50-decibel sample is from Corrales Road on a normal day without the saw running; that’s the ambient noise on a regular day.”
In addition to erecting sound buffers, the Thalers had attached a muffler to the saw “which changed the frequency of the noise and made it less whiney. Before we added the sound abatement, standing right next to the saw we were at about 85 decibels, and standing south of the tin shed which is closest to our nearest neighbor, the sound was at about 65 decibels, spiking to 75 decibels. And now it spikes at 55 decibels” roughly the same level as traffic from Corrales Road, he said.
At the appeal hearing, Rick Thaler said he had used the band saw as a hobby for about a year and never heard that anyone was bothered by it. As a business, he said the saw would be used no more than three hours a day on any given day and even then, it would be cutting wood for periods ranging from about one minute to ten minutes.
Roybal told councillors the sound has decreased since the Thalers installed noise abatement measures, but that it is still annoying. She argued the business is industrial in nature, not commercial, and therefore not allowed.
In his remarks to the council, Thaler said a significant part of the conflict is that he mistakenly referred to the business as a “saw mill” in his request for P&Z approval. He regretted that description gave rise to fears about intended use of the band saw. “We’re not a lumber mill producing commercial quantities of lumber,” he explained. “We’re reclaiming dead and down and unwanted trees.”
If granted site development plan approval, he said he would erect an eight-foot high fence between the Dendro site and the Roybal residence. Another nearby resident, Michael Roake, husband of Corrales’ mayor, said they live about 350 feet east of the Dendro operation. He said he wants to promote business in Corrales but has two concerns: compatibility with the residential character and noise. “I did hear a whine once, and it was so distinctive and unusual it prompted me to take a look. If it is a question of noise abatement, I would welcome abatement to the east.”
Mayor Jo Anne Roake recused herself for the council’s appeal hearing. Thaler said he and his son are willing to erected whatever sound abatement is required, although they wanted to know whether they will be issued a business license before spending thousands of dollars on the fencing. “We were waiting to see if we were going to get our business license before spending another thousand dollars on sound abatement,” Thaler said. “We fully intend to do the sound abatement to the east. If we get a complaint from the north, we’ll do more there.”
At the P&Z meeting in September, several villagers spoke in favor of the site development plan, including former Corrales Planning and Zoning Administrator Claudia “Taudy” Smith. “He’s going above what our ordinances require so that they can fit in with the neighbors.” She said she has known Rick Thaler for 45 years. “This is exactly who we want in our commercial district.”