Gearhart residents want a day off from noise and construction. But contractors, builders and landscapers say seven days a week are needed to complete their jobs in a boom economy amid a labor shortage.
“Our neighborhood has been subject to ongoing construction for the past two years,” wrote Sheila Nolan, a resident. “Commercial construction is permitted 10 hours a day, every day. I am urging you to vote to limit commercial construction to Monday through Friday.”
The city presented two options to curb construction noise, considering work prohibitions on Saturdays or on Saturdays and Sundays. Ultimately, the City Council voted by a 3-2 margin last Wednesday to direct staff to prepare an ordinance prohibiting work on Sundays.
If passed, the police will have primary enforcement responsibility, and may fine violators up to $500. Each occurrence or violation may be punished separately.
“It’s too bad we have gotten to the point where we have to enforce work ethics that should be obvious,” Wilson and Jeanne Mark wrote in a letter to the City Council. “It’s too bad we cannot get all builders to do the right thing.”
The proposal spurred a backlash as contractors, landscapers and developers turned out in-person and online at the council meeting to register dismay at another constraint to an already volatile work environment, with labor shortages, supply delays and unpredictable weather.
Sometimes contractors have no choice but to work on weekends, Andrew Silvis, of AMJ Insulation LLC, said. “A few weeks or month delay can drastically affect our schedule as well, so everything rolls downhill and slows down the entire project,” he said. “If you need your project done and we have to push you back a week, that’s going to hurt everyone you know.”
The building process has been disrupted like never before, contractor Wesley Houck said. “Supply chains are a mess, material shortages are almost in every trade and timelines are undeterminable at the moment. ... I’m just trying to put food on the table, like the rest of us.”
City code allows construction and landscape work seven days a week between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Landscaping is permitted from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
An update to the code, with limits to contractor hours, passed the City Council unanimously in 2014, but fell short of limiting weekend work.
According to the proposed ordinance, in cases of non-emergencies, the city administrator may issue a five-day temporary permit. The permit may be revoked if complaints arise by working outside of the permit parameters.
“As a commercial contractor, we cannot tell you how these changes would dramatically affect our business,” Ben and Tami Olson, of Clean-Sweep Maintenance, wrote city councilors. “In the summertime, we ‘make hay when the sun shines.’ We work longer hours to keep up with demand. In wintertime, our hours are less as the daylight is less. By putting restrictions on hours or less working days, it would greatly harm our ability to service our customers.”
Developer Robert Morey, the co-owner of the former Gearhart Elementary School, said he was “strongly against a reduction of contractors in our area.”
“Our feeling is we should have hours six days a week, longer days than 8 a.m. to 6 p.m,” Morey said. “The noise is part of life. We need to make accommodations for our contractors.”
Arlene Cogen, a resident, said she was “completely against” limiting hours for construction workers. “Financially, this would cripple our community,” she said. “This makes completely no sense whatsoever.”
City Councilor Kerry Smith said the city has a mandate to protect the health and well-being of residents.
He rejected the Saturday and Sunday option, making a motion for work restrictions on Sundays only.
“We have a right and duty to our citizens,” Smith said. “Even if they’ve had their own home built in 28 days, seven days a week, today is a different time. People want peace and quiet at least once a week.”
City Councilor Brent Warren and Councilor Reita Fackerell voted with Smith on behalf of the ordinance.
City Councilor Dan Jesse and Mayor Paulina Cockrum voted in opposition.
With staff revisions and approval, the ordinance could go into effect Nov. 1.