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Whitney Forrest wants the car wash at 54th Street and France Avenue to build a higher fence or sound wall — or keep its doors closed during operation.

Joel Koyama, Star Tribune

Whistleblower: Edina car wash riles neighbor

  • April 28, 2012 - 9:37 PM

Whitney Forrest's wake-up call can be heard around the block.

As early as 7 a.m., she says, she's jolted awake by the blast of the seven-jet dryer at the Edina Car Wash one house away from her own. With employees routinely leaving the doors open during car washes, the roar of dryers isn't muted. She also thinks that soap is misting into her yard, covering plants in a white film and making it smell like a "tropical air freshener."

Now she's taking her concerns to the city, pleading for the business to just shut the car wash doors, or build a taller fence or sound wall. The city so far hasn't found any violations of noise limits, but the company acknowledges that it can't operate silently.

"It's a big balancing act with many different concerns," said Steve Caspers, vice president of Murphy Automotive, which owns the car wash at 54th Street and France Avenue South. "We do what we can to be good neighbors."

Caspers said doors need to be open for ventilation in warmer months as employees work inside the car wash. Building a higher fence, like they did at another Edina car wash, costs about $20,000. Even that didn't eliminate the noise, Caspers said.

"It does generate noise and it's a business that's been there for years," he said. "I liken it to moving next to the airport and saying, 'The planes are noisy.'"

But Forrest said the car wash could do more. Forrest, 29, moved into the home at the edge of Edina after her parents bought it in fall 2010. The car wash is one house away, separated by a wooden fence. She soon found out she couldn't lounge out on deck chairs in her back yard without the periodic blast of the car wash dryers.

"It's hard to carry on a conversation after a while," she said. "It's just car after car."

Pat Moran, who lives two houses away from the car wash, is also bothered by the dryer noise.

"You can't sit in your back yard and enjoy your back yard ever," said Moran, who's lived there for seven years. "All they have to do is close their doors for heaven's sake. It just doesn't seem fair we have to put up with it."

Caspers said the car wash has received about three complaints in its 11 years. He said he's never heard complaints about soap mist. "It's some distance. ... I don't know how we'd determine if that's true," he said.

Two other neighbors said they're aware of the dryer noise and complaints but aren't bothered by it.

City spokeswoman Jennifer Bennerotte said the city's health division received a few complaints about Edina Car Wash's late-night gas deliveries in 2007 and 2010, but no violations were found. A noise complaint this month by Forrest's roommate led to an investigation last Thursday by city staff, who determined the decibels were acceptable.

But in Forrest's complaints to the city, she contends the car wash violates city code because it was approved as an accessory car wash, and that can't have a conveyor belt or more than one car inside. Edina Community Development Director Cary Teague said that's not the case and that the City Council approved a plan in 2001 for Edina Car Wash to have up to three cars in the car wash. City documents from the 2001 meeting don't explicitly state that Edina Car Wash is an accessory car wash, but implies it when stating accessory car washes' parking requirements.

Forrest's mother, Arlene Forrest, is on the Edina Planning Commission and said she would contact Teague to try to do something about the car wash noise.

Of Murphy Automotive's four locations, only one other -- Edina's Grandview Tire and Auto -- has had noise complaints. There, noise from tools and dryers spurred complaints several years ago, Caspers said, so the company installed a 20-foot fence. He said the company hasn't discussed doing the same at France Avenue, where a couple hundred cars can pass through the car wash each day.

"It would be our hope and desire to accommodate the neighborhood," he said. "But we feel like we've done as much as we can do."

kelly.smith@startribune.com Twitter: @kellystrib

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