There's not much the City of Westminster can do about truck traffic through a narrow alley that runs past Schaeffer Lumber Co. to West George Street, a two-member City Council committee has concluded.
The Public Improvements Committee's decision to take no action left Gloria and Richard MacPhee, who own a rental house at 20 W. George St. next to the alley, "a little nonplused," the couple said in a statement.
Mr. and Mrs. MacPhee of Finksburg had asked the council for help in October. They said their tenants in the Westminster house are inundated with diesel fumes and noise from truck traffic that begins at 7 a.m. and continues throughout the day.
Truck traffic through the alley includes tractor-trailers that deliver supplies to Schaeffer Lumber Co. and flatbed trucks that pick up items from the company's materials storage yard, which adjoins the alley on the opposite side of George Street.
A tractor-trailer hit the house in March 1989 and damaged a corner of a first-floor roof, the MacPhees reported.
"The feeling was that the lumber company has been there for ......TC very long time and that the alley has existed a long time, and the owners of the houses knew when they bought the houses that there was a lumber yard there," said Councilman Damian L. Halstad, public improvements committee chairman.
Mr. Halstad said he didn't see an alternative for rerouting the truck traffic away from the 13-foot-wide alley. The lumber company has access to East Green Street, but Mr. Halstad said he felt it would be as treacherous for tractor-trailers to exit onto Green Street as it is for them to use George Street.
Councilman Edward S. Calwell, the other member of the committee, echoed Mr. Halstad's views.
"The city has done as much as we can for these property owners," Mr. Calwell said.
The city installed a guard rail between the house and the alley six years ago and banned parking on the south side of George Street to increase the turning radius for trucks. City crews also placed posts at the edge of the house after the 1989 incident in which the roof was damaged.
The argument that buyers knew the lumber company was there misses the point, Mr. and Mrs. MacPhee said.
"The passengers on the Titanic knew the ocean was there when they booked passage; [the] council's position would seem to be they shouldn't have been surprised when they drowned," they said in their statement.
The owners did not indicate whether they might take additional action.