It didn’t take much for the residents of Missouri City’s Waterbrook community to convince me they suffer from noise pollution generated from Sienna Parkway. Their private drive, McKeever Lane, and a row of trees and shrubs is all that separates the four-lane road from their front yards.
I met with a group of about a half-dozen residents at the home of Jim Hemingway to hear their concerns. Their complaints were as loud and clear as the din of traffic that afternoon as the evening rush was beginning to build. They said the noise was nothing compared to what it would be a couple hours later as the residents of Sienna Plantation began returning home from work, but I didn’t hang around long enough to find out. I had heard enough.
They have been asking Missouri City for 17 years to do something to mitigate the noise coming off of Sienna Parkway. Specifically, they want a sound barrier wall to be built along the road, among other noise-reducing options. All this time the city kept putting them off and stringing them along. Now they’ve been told it won’t happen any time in the foreseeable future.
That has the residents – some of whom have lived there longer than the existence of Sienna Parkway –understandably upset. The quality of their lives and the property value of their homes have been negatively impacted in a significant way. The city that annexed their community and that they pay taxes to will not help them.
I’m not a legal expert but in my estimation the city has an inherent obligation to take care of its residents. They were there long before Sienna Parkway and Sienna Plantation were constructed. Since the city is responsible for the road, it is equally responsible for the noise.
I understand the economics of the situation in that the city claims it doesn’t have the money to build the wall. That doesn’t, however, let the city off the hook for alleviating a problem that it helped create. I think the city needs to very seriously and aggressively investigate ways to adequately mitigate the traffic noise. It needs to work with the residents on the problem and stop putting them off.
I understand the effect noise can have on a person and how frustrating it is when local government refuses to respond. I can count on one hand the number of nights of uninterrupted sleep I’ve had at home in the more than eight years that we’ve lived in Rosenberg. (Most of those nights were with the aid of some potent over-the-counter cold medications.)
We live on an intersection where we are surrounded on two sides by a Mexican restaurant/cantina, an ice house bar, gas station, Washateria, and an automotive shop. All of these establishments make noise at all hours of the day and night, especially the bar. We routinely call in loud music complaints to the police, but the police are becoming less and less responsive. On weekends when they have live music – or worse, karaoke – they just as well be set up in our living room they’re so loud. Many nights we have to go to bed with their music pulsing through the house until at least midnight.
The Washateria and gas station regularly have customers in front with music blaring. The Washateria owner also makes sure to have his landscaping crew over first thing on Saturday mornings – the only day we get to sleep in – to mow the grass, blow leaves and other noisy work. We’ve butt heads over this before and now instead of waking us at 7 a.m., he has them over at 6:30. The mechanic at the auto shop (which is new) sometimes likes to work late into the evening with power tools and loud music.
The Mexican restaurant isn’t so bad, except for the trash pickups at 4 or 5 a.m. where the Dumpster gets banged around. They also host the occasional party that gets loud and lasts long into the night.
If that were not enough, the neighbor two houses down from us got a new dog. It barks incessantly, sometimes for hours on end. That is coupled with the new highway noise, as Avenue I, which runs alongside our house, is now a one-way street. The crossover is a block and a half behind us, so we can count on all the big rigs to be noisily shifting gears as they go by – and they do go by all times day and night.
Plus I haven’t even gotten to the trains that blow their horns and rattle the tracks as the go through town.
So yeah, when the Waterbrook residents complain about the road noise affecting their quality of life, I can relate to their plight better than they realize. Noise pollution has significantly affected my health. Sleep depravation is a nasty thing to live with.
Clearly government needs to be paying more attention to the serious problem of noise pollution in our communities.
Comic con follow-up
A few weeks ago I wrote a column comparing the guest lineups of Houston’s Comicpalooza to San Antonio’s Alamo City Comic Con. I wasn’t able to attend Comicpalooza and from what I’ve heard, I didn’t miss much. Alamo City, on the other hand, had a vastly better celebrity lineup and a much better fan experience. For one thing, the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center is a lot more spacious than the George R. Brown in Houston.
Comicpalooza now prohibits all photography in the autograph area. In San Antonio, it’s up to the individual celebrity. A few still allow it (thank you, George Wendt) but others are pretty adamant that they be left alone to their paying customers. Karl Urban even held his hand up to block me from taking a picture. Val Kilmer went as far as to tent off his booth so he could not be seen, let alone photographed.
As a member of the press, I was given the front, center seat at the Star Wars panel where Ian McDiarmid (who played the Emperor) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) talked about their experiences making the movies. I’ve met Peter many times and I follow him on Facebook. It was there on the social media site a couple days later when he paid me the huge honor of using one of my pictures of him as his profile picture. He also shared my photo album of the convention, which caused the likes, shares and comments to just explode! (Thank you, Peter!)
Despite my positive appraisal of Alamo City over Comicpalooza, I have to confess that I’m getting tired of the con games. I go mostly for the opportunity to see celebrities. In the early years of the cons, celebrities didn’t charge for autographs and they loved posing for photos. Now, you not only have to pay for an expensive ticket to the events, but shell out anywhere from $30 to $150 per autograph or photo. The sad thing is, people line up for hours and pay through the nose for the opportunity to do this.
I think maybe next year I will turn more of my attention to the real, creative grassroots force behind the cons and focus on the costumers (known as cosplayers). They want the attention and are a lot more fun than conceited millionaires with the Midas touch of their pens.