An expert Thursday night testified before Manchester's Zoning Board of Adjustment that the maximum sound level at a proposed skilled nursing facility would fall within township and state guidelines.
Matthew Murello, president of Lewis S. Goodfriend and Associates, Consulting Engineers in Acoustics, said that the Manchester Rehab Realty facility under consideration for a construction variance 3086 Ridgeway Rd. would not exceed the nighttime residential zone standard of 50 dBA even with all its mechanical equipment running.
"That's all the air conditioners and fans running at the nighttime hours," he said. Those components — including air handlers, a trash compactor, cooling towers and exhaust fans — would produced a projected 46 dBA at the property line. During the day, the "worst case" dBA could reach 48, Murello said, a volume that is still within township and state standards.
Three-sided barriers near noisy equipment and 4-5 inch-thick fencing at the property line would help to contain the noise on the site, Murello said.
Murello is one of many expert witnesses brought by the applicant to testify before the board since a variance is required to construct the facility in a residential zone. Since the application's introduction in June, a growing number of residents have spoken out against it, as they fear it may lower their quality of life and property values.
Murello continued his testimony by saying that delivery trucks backing up may be heard by neighbors since the warning beep under code meant to be heard as a warning and is produced in the most audible frequency the ear can perceive.
"It will be audible, and the problem with backup beepers is that, as everyone knows, it tends to be a rather annoying beep," Murello said. To alleviate that issue, Murello said that he recommends those trucks only make deliveries during daytime hours.
In a further effort to alleviate resident complains, applicant attorney Harvey York said that — in addition to a ban on nighttime deliveries — the trash compactor would not run at night.
For an idea of how loud that potential maximum could reach, township engineer Bob Mullin asked if that noise level is comparable to anything to which the audience at the special meeting in the auditorium of Manchester Township High School could relate.
"The problem with that is sound has a subjective quality to it," Murello said. Different sounds may have the same dBA but a different quality.
"Numerically, it's difficult to say what 46 dBA sounds like," Murello said, though he tried to offer a comparison — a standard 2-to-3 ton air conditioner at a 25-foot distance produces about the mid-to-low 50 dBA range.
"That's about as close as I can get," he said.
Some residents questioned whether any additional noise is too much. Renaissance resident Jack Glussi had an exchange with Murello during which he tried to find an answer as to how much noise is normal in a residential neighborhood.
"The acceptable for us is 0," he said. Currently, the property is "an empty lot," Glussi said, so he questioned whether the noise by the proposed facility would be an increase.
Murello reiterated that the standard for a residential zone set by the township and state is 50 dBA.
Lisa John, attorney for the Manchester Neighbors group which opposes the construction of the facility, asked Murello whether he took into consideration whether the employees scheduled to start an 11 p.m. shift could create additional noise.
"You didn't take into account car doors slamming, car engines starting, [remote door lock] beepers?" John asked.
"No, I did not take into account any of the employee cars in that area of the site," Murello said.
Shorin Way resident Gwen Lareau, an outspoken opponent of the facility whose home is adjacent to the proposed site, questioned whether the language in Murello's report — such as calling sound levels "anticipated" — means that the figures could differ if the facility is approved and constructed.
"These numbers are right," Murello said. "I do stand behind my report, as I do all the other thousands of reports I've done in my career."
Prior to the sound expert, project engineer Michael Thomas of Wall-based Innovative Engineering testified to January modifications to the site which included the relocation of a sign from the property line and the moving of bank parking spaces to the center of the site.
The question of representation arose when a resident who donated to the Manchester Neighbors group asked why he was unable to question Thomas directly.
"Because I made a contribution, I'm locked into it for the rest of my life?" Diego Court resident John Gallegher said.
"[Manchester Neighbors is] represented by an attorney and you gave money to them. You're represented by Ms. John, who is doing a wonderful job," said board attorney Christopher Reid.
Gallegher said that he did not recall giving the group a donation and wanted to ask questions. After an exchange with Reid, Gallegher was instructed that he could ask his question through John, who represents the group.
"That's the premise that's been going on since the start," Reid said.
The application will be heard next during the board's regular meeting on April 26; it will not be heard at the regular March meeting.