Since the aquatic center opened its doors in May, some residents in the Falls of Cherokee subdivision have reported repeated noises disturbances from machinery and outdoor lights casting a harsh glow onto their homes.
“Quite frankly, they can’t enjoy being outside anymore,” John Marinko, secretary of the neighborhood’s homeowners association, said Thursday. “It’s a serious issue. One lady had to move her son’s bedroom (because of the lights).”
In response to the complaints, the board of commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to spend up to $25,000 to install privacy fencing at the edge of the aquatic center property and put shields on the outdoor lights. The issue of noise, though, was put off until spring, as it isn’t as much of a nuisance during the off season.
The noise comes mostly from the center’s “pool packs,” which basically act as dehumidifier units for the facility and don’t run as often in the off season. They roar “like a jet engine,” Marinko said.
Marinko said only about 18 homeowners in the neighborhood say they have problems, but for at least a handful of them, the aquatic center has greatly affected their life at home.
He and other residents have complained to Cherokee County about the “annoyances and nuisances,” and have seen some effort to correct the problems. But so far, the county hasn’t been able to fix much.
Most recently, the neighbors contacted Commissioner Brian Poole, who brought the topic before the board of commissioners for discussion Tuesday.
Poole said Thursday in talking to residents, he saw they had somewhat of a “bad deal” to end up next to the aquatic center.
“It’s just disturbed everything they’re used to,” he said. “(Those people) have anywhere from $300,000 to $600,000 homes and they get an aquatic center put in their backyard. I’m trying to get them back to as comfortable as they can be with the aquatic center there, because we can’t do away with it now.”
The county’s efforts are appreciated, Marinko said. But it’s yet to be seen how effective they will be.
For Cherokee County, the aquatic center has proved a profitable venture so far, with its first fiscal year in operation showing a profit, officials noted during the meeting Tuesday.
But Poole said he and the rest of the commissioners want to make sure the price for the Falls of Cherokee isn’t too great. The noise problems, however, need to be addressed in March or April, when the full sound level could be measured.
At that point, Cherokee County plans to have a sound study done by a third-party firm that will make recommendations on how to bring the noise down, Poole said.
In the meantime, he hopes the lighting concerns will be solved.
“Those lights are bright,” Poole said. “You can look at each other out in the pitch-black dark. It’s really bright.”
But Poole isn’t sure how much of the aquatic center’s impact can be reversed for the homeowners nearby.
“I don’t think they’ll ever be 100 percent happy again, I doubt that very seriously,” he said. “But if we can get them close to that, I’m happy.”