I recently wrote a column about noise pollution in Forest Park that resonated with a number of readers. It was an ear-opening article because I started hearing from readers with their own noise complaints. Monica Berns was the first reader to contact me. She was complaining about noise from the Crystal Car Wash at 901 S. Harlem.
Berns purchased her home on the 800 block of Elgin on Dec. 14, 2012. She was not bothered by the traffic noise coming from I-290 or Harlem Avenue. She was also not disturbed by noise emanating from the Premier Car Wash, where Crystal is now located.
She recalled that Premier had its vacuums on the east side of the building, facing Harlem Avenue, so the noise did not affect residents to the west. Crystal has vacuums on the west/alley side of its property, which Berns said does impact her neighborhood.
On June 28, she addressed the Forest Park Village Council about the noise problem. I found her remarks reasonable and respectful. She simply requested that the village conduct noise and traffic studies in the vicinity of Crystal Car Wash. On July 1, 2021, She invited me to her home to experience the noise problem she’s complaining about.
As we sat on her front porch, the loudest sound I heard was when the exit door of the car wash opened and cars exited north onto Lexington Street. The noise was caused by the dryers and lasted about 20 seconds each time a car exited.
Berns stated that her house is 300 feet from the car wash exit. She uses an app on her phone to measure sound levels. When the exit door opened, the reading was 60 decibels on her phone. She and I walked toward the car wash. She has painted distances to the car wash on the pavement.
When we were 50 feet from the exit, her app registered over 80 decibels. Berns stated she has researched state and local ordinances governing car washes and believes Crystal is in violation of both. She has not contacted Crystal’s owner, Neil Rembos, with her complaints.
“I like the car wash,” Berns said, “but a compromise needs to be made. The noise is harassing me and not allowing me to live in peace.” The car wash opens daily at 7 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. Weekends are the worst time for noise, she said.
When she spoke to her neighbors about the car wash noise, it opened “a whole floodgate of complaints.” She believes the noise is affecting the health of her neighbors and negatively impacting the value of their homes. She wants Crystal to install some kind of sound abatement to mitigate the noise annoying residents.
Besides the existing car wash, Berns has concerns about the Rembos family purchasing a lot on the northwest corner of Harlem and Lexington, where they intend to expand their car wash operation. She believes the village should carefully consider this proposal, in light of the problems Crystal is already causing.
Steve Glinke, head of the village’s Dept. of Public Health & Safety, said there will be a public hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals, concerning Crystal’s expansion. He suggests the hearing will provide the appropriate forum for residents to voice their complaints about excessive noise.
In Berns’ opinion, the car wash problem comes down to whether Forest Park wants to be a “business-friendly” community as opposed to a “resident-friendly” community. She is hoping the village will perform noise and traffic studies in connection with Crystal and find an amicable solution to the problem.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries. Jrice1038@aol.com