How would you have voted on the I-80 wall near Jeremy Ranch?

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“With great power comes great responsibility.”

– Spider Man’s Uncle Ben Voltaire

It’s been interesting watching the Battle for The Wall near Jeremy Ranch.

If you are not familiar, because UDOT is adding a truck lane to I-80, it opened up the possibility of adding a noise abatement wall along I-80 near Jeremy Ranch. The wall would run from the Jeremy Ranch Golf Course to the Hidden Cove area. Originally, a study recommended an 18 foot wall that could decrease sound by 5 decibels (or greater). Public outcry over wall height led to a proposed berm with a 7 to 17 foot high wall constructed that would reduce noise by 5 decibels (or greater) for certain homes (according to UDOT studies).

UDOT then followed its noise abatement policy and sent a ballot to property owners, in a certain area, that would see an estimated 5 decibel (or greater) reduction in noise. If 75% of the ballots were returned and 75% of the ballots returned voted for the wall, UDOT would build it. In the case of The Wall, it was approved with 25 votes for and 2 against. It was overwhelming. 93% of the people voted for it. The Park Record headline proclaimed “Jeremy Ranch residents approve Summit County’s first noise barrier.“ Umm, except, you know Jeremy Ranch has over 2,000 residents. There are over 600 homes. So, it may be more accurate to say that 4% of Jeremy Ranch homes voted for a wall. 

Yet, you know, The Wall isn’t just a Jeremy Ranch thing. Summit Park, Pinebrook, and Jeremy Ranch are the entry for many people coming to Park City. The Wall reflects on all of Park City. So actually, probably .0.3% of homes impacted by The Wall voted for this.

That said, we understand why someone may vote for The Wall if they lived in one of those 27 homes. Park City traffic is loud and it’s likely I-80 is pretty loud at these homes. Studies have shown that high levels of noise can cause health problems. People might also use trails adjacent toThe Wall and look forward to a quiet experience. So, I understand why people would seize the opportunity to try to make their lives quieter.

Yet, The Wall will likely be obtrusive. The berm and wall will likely be 18 feet high in places. It will likely impact peoples’ impressions of the area. It will likely be tagged. It will be reminiscent of areas along I-15, I-215, etc. in SLC. It probably doesn’t fit into what people think of when they think of a small mountain town. It will likely contribute to the notion that our community is another Sandy.

All that aside, what’s interesting about the vote for The Wall is that those types of votes rarely happen here. Usually your City, County Council, or Planning Commission make development decisions on your behalf. They usually make decisions based on how they perceive the overall benefit for the city or county. They vote for what they think is best for the community and not what may be best for them. Of course, they are elected to represent (or appointed by elected officials to represent), so that plays into it.

In this case, a decision was put into the hands of people directly impacted, and they made the decision. Twenty-five home owners/property owners/ tenants said, “we’d like that wall.” We don’t presume to know exactly why people voted as they did. However, we would guess that many voted with personal interests (as you might expect). One of the quotes in the Park Record article said, “The fact that there were people that would fight something I like this, I don’t understand that at all. I don’t understand that people would not want this to happen when they know it would be for the good of the people.” Let’s fix that. That should be “… when they know it would be for the good of a few people.”

I’m not sure how this benefits someone on Old Ranch Road, unless they are looking for a precedent to get their own wall. I’m not sure how it is good overall for the people of Jeremy Ranch, outside of the 25 voters, up to 15 other homes that may get some noise reduction, and the people who think it will make their trail commutes better. If 18 foot walls are good, then lets build them everywhere along I-80, 224, and 248. Most places in Park City could use some noise abatement.

In some ways I feel a little bad for the people compelled to vote on this. Just like the members of the County Council responsible for voting for the horrible redesign of The Village at Kimball 5 years ago, the people who voted for The Wall now own it. We hope they vetted the color, the design, the materials, the berm, the setbacks, and visual obstruction from every point. We hope they accounted for snow removal and the impacts of runoff and a million other things. That’s what the councils, their planning commissions, and staffs do in almost every case. They usually don’t depend on the developer (in this case UDOT) to give them complete facts. They usually depend on the developer to provide the absolute minimum that they are required to do.

Should the wall turn out great for the majority of Parkites, people will say, “that’s a nice wall.” Should it not go well, people will look at those 25 voters and squarely place blame.

What I do wonder, going forward, is how those people who voted with self-interest will treat other cases of self interest. Let’s say that a land swap deal was brokered to allow the hill across from the Jeremy Store to be zoned commercial and that allowed Gary Crandall to build a car dealership on the hill. Would the self-interested portion of The Wall voters stand up behind Gary Crandall and support his right to self-interest? Would they write letters to editor proclaiming that the car dealership is GOOD FOR THE PEOPLE? The people being Mr Crandall, his family, and his investors, of course. I mean, even Gary Crandall has to eat.

Again, I understand why people may have voted for The Wall. If I were in their situation, I may have done the same thing. However, I hope I would have viewed my position as having great responsibility. I would hope that I would view myself as casting a vote that represents the entire area.

Of course, I may be wrong, and the majority of citizens may want walls. If that’s the case, we better get to building those 18 foot walls everywhere.

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Parkrag

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15 comments

  • I didn’t get a vote, and I would have voted yes. It’s time to stop pretending Jeremy/Pinebrook/Kimball are anything but a bedroom/commuter suburb of SLC. Almost everyone here gets on I-80 every day to drive to the valley for work. Many people do most of their shopping there too. We’re a suburb, just like Cottonwood Heights or Sandy or lots of other places with noise mitigation for busy roads.

    We should do walls basically everywhere that they would be useful, IMO. I don’t care what they look like – the interstate looks worse. So block that view all you want. And I don’t care what it looks like to people driving on I-80. They should be keeping their eyes on the road anyway.

  • If the people of Jeremy Ranch are suddenly concerned about impressions of the community they should fix the sign at the entrance.

    • Well played sir or madame…

      I could go with “Winter is coming” … but that is obviously not true. Have you looked outside?

      I could go with the voters will get what they deserved just like Little Finger… but who knows; The Wall could be beautiful.

      I could start referencing Diane Foster as the Mother of Dragons… but I’m not sure she would appreciate that, although I would say it in a positive way.

      I could say that anyone who voted for this must be a fan of Ramsay and his methods… but that’s a bit harsh.

      So, let’s go with the fact that I hope the people who voted for The Wall are as vigilant as the Night’s Watch in ensuring that this isn’t an unmitigated disaster.

  • Agree with Walt here – not sure I fully understand the loud voices in opposition to this… do people really feel like the heavy truck traffic going up and down the interstate is pleasant?

    I do wish there were a better solution – so many of the beautiful canyons in Utah are marred by busy roads with loud cars.

    I’m also not sure I get the view that the wall is going to be “tagged”. Have you driven in the valley at all lately? 215 doesn’t quite look like inner city Baltimore.

  • I like that I can post my comment here anonymously. I’m afraid to do so on NextDoor because I’d probably get attached by my neighbors. I understand the concerns people have raised about noise being reflected. What I don’t understand is why they are stating those concerns as if they were facts. How do you KNOW the noise will be reflected to location X? Is there a study or some data that leads you to believe that?

    • The opponents went sort of nuts with hyperbole (you can see this on Nextdoor right now):

      -The wall will destroy my mountain views (do you live in the ditch next to the interstate? Because I don’t think a single home in Jeremy will have their view of the mountains obstructed. Their views of the interstate, yes. But not the mountains.)

      -The wall will get tagged/covered with graffiti (funny, I-215/80/15 don’t appear to have any on their extensive barriers when I drive to the valley). There are a number of easily tagged structures at the entrance to Jeremy/I80 interchange, yet I’ve never seen any.

      -Why didn’t anyone think of planting trees (30 seconds of googling will tell you – because that *doesn’t work*).

      -Why do we need a truck lane anyway (decision already made, not our property, etc).

      -People knew what they were getting when they bought a house next to the interstate (well, you also knew what you were getting when you bought a house near a house next to the interstate).

      Then there’s the noise reflection question, which the UDOT engineer patiently and repeatedly explained at the initial Jeremy meeting (and I’m sure at the various times since) – there will be minimal reflection of sound – the barriers are designed for this purpose, they’re not parabolic mirrors pointed at your house.

      Now, maybe you’re an acoustical engineer and you can prove otherwise, and UDOT is lying and wants to ruin your life, but we indeed just got broad assertions of fact from random people, even though there’s not a single home visible on the other side of the interstate from the location of the barrier.

      Really, I’m baffled that the main, strongest argument wasn’t the primary one used – the expense is VERY high for something that will have a pretty limited benefit (though many of the houses in lower Jeremy that did not get to vote will get *some* noise reduction).

      If the opponents had really hammered on the expense question, and stopped using arguments that insulted the intelligence of the folks voting, or in some cases just the folks voting themselves, they might have been persuasive. Persuasive enough? Who knows. But a quick reread of How to Make Friends and Influence People is certainly in order for a few people.

      • 100% agree with this – very well articulated. I would be much more persuaded by the cost argument than what really seems like knee-jerk NIMBY-ism.

        It’s like the new walkway / underpass being built on the Jeremy Ranch exit for the handful of people that feel unsafe on the current one. A multi-million tax placed on all of us to benefit a select few… and this one seems to be in put in place primarily due to a single very vocal advocate.

    • While I do worry about what The Wall will look like, I tend to agree with Walt on the reasons. I THINK it could be ugly… but I don’t know that. Does anyone know exactly what it will look like (including UDOT)?

      I don’t think it will benefit many people, and even for those it does, I believe the impact will minimal. Have you listened to a 5 decibel reduction in sound? That said, I don’t live in those houses and who am I to impose my “guess” (and opinion) that 5 decibels isn’t much. Maybe it is to one of the voters. 5 Decibels is the policy.

      Do I think it will get tagged? Yeah. Do I know that. No. The only way I would is if I planned on tagging it myself (which I don’t).

      I guess I just discount almost anyone who is cock-sure of anything. No one knows for sure that sound will be reflected, for instance. If someone says IT WILL… like Walt said they better be an acoustical engineer, studied UDOT’s data, and produced an analysis.

      That’s why I come back to the thought that I hope the people who voted on this did their due-diligence.There are so may unknowns. The more these voters research, manage, and control the development of this, the better off we all will be.

      Because if it does turn out to be bad and it’s the ugliest thing people have seen, or it does reflect noise (even though it’s not supposed to), or it impacts wildlife somehow (even though there is that wildlife crossing farther up), those “voters” will be blamed.

      I think they were put in a bad position on something with a lot of unknowns and complexity.

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