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Neighbors brace for renewed New Belgium noise

NB site RS

Company says it wasn’t behind middle-of-night earth moving

Meanwhile contacts at both New Belgium and the City of Asheville say they have no idea who was behind the middle-of-the-night earth moving activity that routed nearby residents out of bed week before last.

Within the week, New Belgium is expected to begin construction on a cluster of silos that will hold the malt to be used in producing New Belgium’s Fat Tire beer. The silo raising, New Belgium says, will begin with the setting of steel columns. There will be nine silos in all, located at the west end of the site, and work on them is expected “to continue through November.”

New Belgium has assigned an “anticipated neighborhood impact” of “3” on a scale of 1 to 5. The neighborhood impact scale is apparently a value, assigned by New Belgium, to the effect its work is estimated to have on the surrounding area in terms of noise, traffic impact and similar factors. (Noise from this summer’s pile driving activity, which produced complaints from residents of surrounding residential neighborhoods, was assigned a “4” on the scale.) New Belgium says the “3” rating encompasses material delivery and the actual setting of the steel columns.

The Tribune attempted to contact Gabe Quisenberry, New Belgium’s project manager for the Asheville site, for a clarification of the 1-to-5 scale categories: was a 1, for instance, barely noticeable and a 5 unendurable? The Tribune’s call was returned by Bryan Simpson, New Belgium’s corporate head of public relations at the company’s home office in Fort Collins, CO. Simpson said that in the future such questions should be in writing, “so we can track them better.”

Later Simpson wrote that he had passed the Tribune’s questions on to Susanne Hackett, founder of the business blog Pollinate Collaborators, who has acted as community relations coordinator for New Belgium’s Asheville operations since 2013. Via Simpson’s e-mail, Hackett responded, referencing New Belgium’s September 17 website update — which had prompted the Tribune’s questions to begin with.

“Since the experience of sound and disruption is subjective, we try to provide those reading our updates with some sense of the impact on a 1-5 scale. Pile driving is about a 4 out of 5, while setting the steel columns for the malt silo (which we are already starting to erect) is a 3 of 5.” Hackett wrote.

The Tribune’s well-traveled inquiry was thus able to determine that on New Belgium’s subjective scale, disturbance levels in the coming weeks would be somewhat less than that generated by pile driving, but more than the relative calm of the past few weeks.

The 3 a.m. wakeup call

About 2:30 on the morning of Thursday, September 11, Jonathan Wainscott, who lives on the hill just above the New Belgium site, was awakened by the rumble and beep-beep-beep of heavy equipment. He left his house and walked in the darkness to a point across the road from the factory site. There is no type of security lighting at the site; thus, Wainscott said, he could only see lights from a front end loader, which was working, and from “a minivan-type vehicle” parked at the intersection of Waynesville and Craven Streets, at the upper end of the project property.

In the darkness, Wainscott said, it was difficult to tell whether the dozer was operating on New Belgium’s property or on the Craven Street sidewalk area. (The city, as part of its incentive package with New Belgium, is making about 3,000 running feet worth of improvements to Craven Street and the adjacent right-of-way.) Wainscott said that as he watched, the minivan drove off towards the River Arts District. He said he could make out two men operating the bulldozer, and that he heard one of them say, “Okay, that’s good.” The dozer then went quiet, but resumed operation a few minutes later.

Later that morning, Wainscott called local New Belgium officials, who said they had no knowledge of any company-sanctioned operations at the site after normal hours, certainly not between two and three o’clock in the morning. Wainscott then posted a message to the New Belgium Facebook page.

“So far, no one has claimed responsibility for work being done on your site at 3AM.,” Wainscott said in his message. “Can you please tell me and my neighbors if we should expect to hear construction activity on your site 24 hours a day, or if not and we see such activity, should the police be called? Do you have a 24/7 security on site now?”

Wainscott said he received no response to his inquiry. City officials, when he contacted them, disavowed any knowledge of activity at the Craven Street improvement site at that time and place, he said.

Coates, when contacted by the Tribune, said he understood “a couple of people” had asked whether the city had been involved in the nocturnal earth moving, but said, “We don’t have any idea who it could have been.”

A video recording taken by Wainscott with his mobile phone during the incident reveals nothing more than headlights, tail lights and equipment noise. There are no street lights nearby and no other source of lighting is in place. In April of 2013 there was a house fire, which was later declared to have been an act of arson, on property adjacent to the New Belgium site. At that time, New Belgium indicated it would consider placing the area under security surveillance and adding protective lighting; however, residents say, this so far has not happened.

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