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$5,000 study concludes playground's not too noisy

FLAT ROCK — Responding to complaints from residents of Highland Golf Villas, the Flat Rock Village Council spent $5,000 to find out if the town’s new playground is too noisy.

It’s not, acoustic scientists said.
The Village Council, after receiving the report during its regular meeting last week, declared the matter closed.
“We’ve taken steps to get an objective opinion from an expert so it’s going to be hard to argue with that,” Vice Mayor Nick Weedman said. “I think this is about as good as we can do.”
If the playground neighbors persist, the village council now have a 19-page report to back up the view that children squealing, moms shouting a warning and dads coaching wall climbing skills does not a loud disturbance make.
Filled with technical phrases like acoustical metrics, ambient soundscape, decibels (“a logarithmic ratio used to compare sound pressure levels”), the report contains color photos and Google earth images, a field log, wind direction chart and a noise level graph showing measuring both children’s and adults’ voices.
The report, by Blue Ridge Research and Consulting in Asheville, was based on the sound level measurements taken from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 18. Engineers placed one sound level meter on the playground and one each at homes at 133 and 235 Highland Gold Drive. They were on tripods and five feet above ground. They installed a weather monitor to measure wind direction and speed (the wind was mostly westerly and averaged 2.3 knots).
“The excellent weather on Saturday, June 18, resulted in an average of 19 people at the playground” during the research — 10 children and nine adults on average. A Flat Rock Village Council member had urged friends to bring their children that day, the report noted.
“Based on BRRC observations, as one might expect, the children were the primary source in the vicinity of the playground,” the researchers said. The presence of up to 23 children in the playground was not enough to drown out other sounds near the homes, including “light wind in the trees, birds, residents talking, occasional road noise along Highland Gold Drive, area HVAC units, distant traffic, insects, etc. However, there may be a correlation if more children are present on the playground or if a particularly loud group of children are present.”
Two residents told the researchers that June 18 was “not typical of the elevated noise levels that can occur on the playground.”
Although the sound levels were no higher than conversation in a room, the researchers conceded that some sound from the playground could bother neighbors.
“Specifically,” they said, “children’s screams typically occur within a distinct frequency range and such screaming, although demonstrably not a driver of overall sound levels during the monitored period, can be disruptive to residential enjoyment.”
The engineers suggested noise mitigation options that included capping the playground tunnel for $5,000 (kids like to scream in the tunnel to hear the sound resonate), planting a buffer, putting up sound screens or restricting hours.
BRRC senior scientist Josh Mellon did not rate the noise level as disruptive, said Don Farr, the chair of the Flat Rock Park Commission.
“His recommendation to council is to do nothing further,” Farr said.