Do you live on the water? Those who live or work on the water are well aware of how sound carries. Sometimes on a perfectly calm day, I can almost hear conversations of people across the river. Now that peaceful tranquility is threatened by a proposed project that will commercialize Williams Wharf.
Before purchasing our home in Mathews 16 years ago, we considered a home in Tappahannock. On the third visit, we noticed a repetitious ka-thump, ka-thump sound while in the back yard. Knowing that this noise would never end because it came from traffic on the Route 301 Bridge, we decided to look elsewhere.
The peace and quiet my family has enjoyed in Mathews since then is now being threatened by a group that wants to install windmills to generate electricity for an enormous building to be constructed on the East River. The idea of using the wind to generate electrical power is fashionable, green technology, but noisy turbine windmills located within hearing distance of one’s home have been proven statistically to devalue homes and turn prospective buyers away.
According to the Washington Metropolitan Airport Authority, the relative loudness of a departing Boeing 737 is 80 decibels, and an electrical guitar with an amplifier playing rock music is 120 decibels. Many urban localities use equipment to measure decibels from a noise source to determine if it exceeds allowable limits in the locality’s noise ordinance. Mathews County does not have a noise ordinance. County supervisors discussed this issue once, but the equipment to measure the decibels was too expensive, and the language to establish and enforce an ordinance was deemed too complicated to pursue.
A proposed 20,000 sq. ft. building, to be built almost exclusively over vegetated and non-vegetated wetlands in the East River, will be used as a rental facility for large, non-water related events such as weddings, fundraisers, biker conventions, etc. Neighbors would endure increased traffic and noise. Residential areas, both on the same road and across the East River, would suffer from the consequences of noise pollution, property de-valuation, aesthetic landscape destroyed, and all the negative effects of commercialization.
The residents who live near Williams Wharf and across the East River are not opposed to the Wharf’s rowing and sailing programs and other activities such as Tour de Chesapeake, Wharf-to-Wharf swims, three annual regattas, local fundraisers, etc. Most, however, are opposed to an enormous building being built over tidal wetlands that commercializes Williams Wharf with large-scale private events, ruining the aesthetic landscape, employing noisy windmills (that threaten birds), and potentially polluting the river from increased run-off of flood water from impervious surfaces. The focus should be on building a facility to accommodate the Mathews crew and the small number of children and adults who participate in mostly summer, aquatic events/classes at Williams Wharf.
The Williams Wharf project conflicts with the primary reason many of us invested in Mathews County—to enjoy and be good stewards of its natural beauty and tranquility. In fact, this project clearly conflicts with the Mathews Land Conservancy’s stated mission of “preserving and protecting Mathews County’s priceless natural resources.”
Linda K. Wilson, Ph.D.
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