Urbana Meijer disturbs neighbors

By Alison Lacey

In opening its new location in Urbana, Meijer has run into some problems.

Located along the residential block of 1700 Lydia Court, the new store has received continuous complaints from neighbors about noise coming both from loading docks and semi-truck traffic that goes on from early morning to late at night, along with complaints about the eyesore of the store’s prominence against the neighborhood setting.

Kathleen Nagle, a neighbor whose house sits on the border of the cul-de-sac between Meijer’s back lot and private property, said these issues have been a problem for the residents and, so far, there has been no working solution enacted.

“The store is elevated from landscaping,” said Libby Tyler, director of Urbana’s Community Development Services, “and it is located about 100 feet from the houses, so the loading docks are very visible.”

In a response to the problem of Meijer’s elevation as well as several other issues, Nagle sent around a petition that has been signed by 24 neighbors. It proposes “a structurally-sound barrier” be constructed to run from Amber Lane to Windsor Road along the stretch of Meijer’s property. The petition stated that the barrier is needed “to address…(the issues of) noise, wind, drainage, foot traffic, privacy of homeowners” and for the “protections of homeowner’s property values.”

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Tyler’s department has been in constant communication with Meijer to try and mediate between the store and its new neighbors but has not yet come to a decision about the neighbors’ petition.

In a response to the complaint that there must be a barrier between the loading dock and private property, Meijer recently constructed a 6-foot high vinyl, opaque fence along the length of the loading docks, said Tyler. Though, she added, it does not run the entire length of the docks, nor is it tall enough to block the trucks from the view of some of the neighbors.

According to Nagle, the barrier does not block out the sound but rather amplifies it.

“The noise is worse with the plastic wall,” Nagle said, “It acts like an eardrum.”

Frank Guglielmi, director of public relations for Meijer, said the store is now in compliance with all ordinances but is still trying to be a good neighbor and negotiate with any complaints from neighbors. The trucks, which initially made noise at the loading docks from 4 a.m. to midnight within the first couple weeks of the Meijer’s opening as the store was stocked, have now moved their docking hours to between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. only.

He added that only one truck with fresh produce is to be docked in the evening, with a deadline of 10 p.m.

Tyler said that Meijer has also reduced truck traffic and planted trees and shrubbery to further shield the docks from residents.

“Nonetheless,” said Tyler, “I think it’s going to be a continuing concern.”

“The best advice we can give to neighbors is to document the time and date of the complaint,” said Laurel Prussing, Urbana’s mayor.

There are still some kinks to work out. For example, Prussing said, despite Meijer’s new docking schedule, they received a complaint about a truck docking around 4:30 a.m. this past Monday. But Prussing is optimistic.

“The new Meijer is a very nice store, and I am sure we can work out these difficulties,” said Prussing.

Nagle said that she and the fellow neighbors think that thus far, the actions taken to appease them are not an acceptable compromise.