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Residents fume over noise from truck site

Residents of Southern Avenue say they aren't sleeping - not since the city relocated a street-lighting maintenance operation to their formerly quiet residential street in Northeast Baltimore.

"It sounds like Godzilla is going down the street," Helene Quinn says of the nightlong hum of city trucks outside her home there.

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At a public forum last night, Quinn - supported by a cluster of sign-waving neighbors - appealed to Mayor Martin O'Malley to move what she called a "truck depot" somewhere else.

"We want them to move," she said before the meeting at City College, which was called by the mayor to hear from the public. "It's bringing our neighborhood down and lowering the values of our homes."

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She and several neighbors say the city trucks and loud employees have disturbed them since the street-lighting operation was moved to Southern Avenue from Oliver Street last fall. Trucks shake the houses' foundations as they lurch over the neighborhood's speed bumps, Quinn said, and some neighbors have complained that their walls are cracking.

"You've also got the employees in the city thinking they're down in some industrial area," said Jeff Sattler, a neighborhood resident. "They scream at the top of their lungs."

For years, the lot at 3202 Southern Ave. was used by the State Highway Administration to store snowplows and other vehicles. The city bought the property last year.

Since the move, the city has made an effort to address neighborhood complaints, Richard Hooper, a superintendent in the city Department of Transportation, said before the session.

After several meetings with community representatives, he said, the city put up a stockade fence around part of the property, and took steps to curb noise and vulgarity blamed on employees, prohibited trucks from honking late at night and limited operation of larger trucks between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

"We've really tried to accommodate them," Hooper said.

Residents want the trucks gone.

"Imagine if you had 18-wheelers coming down your street at 3 o'clock in the morning," said Sattler, executive director of Neighborhoods of Greater Lauraville. "There have to be alternative locations than right smack in a residential community."

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Hooper said the city has nothing larger than bucket trucks, dump trucks and pickup trucks there.

Marty Johnson, owner of the Cambridge Square Townhouse Development, adjacent to the street-lighting operation, said two of his tenants have moved because of the noise and that he fears he will lose more.

"I'm getting complaints from all my tenants," he said. "Sometimes, when [the trucks] come in with a load, you can feel the vibrations on the floor."

Johnson said the din prompted him to move to a room on the other side of his house to sleep.

"It's a truck depot in a quiet, peaceful neighborhood," Quinn told the mayor, who promised to look into the complaints.


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