Island County Realtors rolling out new noise disclosure

Coupeville resident Judy Gremmel was on a mission in recent months to raise awareness about what she calls the “pathetic” jet noise disclosure given to homebuyers over the past decade or longer.

Gremmel was in constant contact with Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, Island County commissioners, state legislators and news outlets throughout the region claiming that residents were “trapped, not told.”

In response to criticism by residents such as Gremmel as well as county leadership, Island County real estate brokers will now use an updated, expanded jet noise disclosure form starting this week.

The previous one-paragraph disclosure, Form 22W, provided to homebuyers within closing documents, came under scrutiny in the wake of complaints and a federal lawsuit filed over noise produced by the Navy’s new EA-18G Growler.

Gremmel, who assisted in the creation of a new blog entitled, “Citizens Harmed by Disclosure Deception,” said that, while the new disclosure is good news for future homebuyers, it doesn’t help those who already purchased homes.

“It’s a sad day for people who didn’t get any of this information earlier,” Gremmel said. “Now this disclosure will just make it harder to sell and get away from the noise.”

The Navy is transitioning to the Growler from the EA-6B Prowler, and some residents on Central and North Whidbey claim the Growler is louder and more disruptive.

The Navy, however, maintains that the Growler’s noise levels are comparable to the Prowler, but resonates at a different frequency.

As a result, some residents, many of whom live around the Navy’s Outlying Field Coupeville, complained that they were not properly warned about jet noise levels at the time they bought their homes.

Island County government staff researched the county’s noise disclosure rules in response to citizen’s questions. In December, they released a memorandum stating that Form 22W did not contain the language required in the county’s ordinances.

The memorandum stated that Form 22W did not “contain both required disclosure statements, nor cite applicable county code.”

Jason Joiner, government affairs director for the Whidbey Island Association of Realtors, said his membership, once it became aware of this issue, took action to correct the problem.

“We made the change in response to the memorandum,” Joiner said. “We want to be sure that the disclosure is in compliance with the law.”

Updated Form 22W, which was reviewed and approved by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, pulls language from both of Island County’s noise disclosures, one that applies to existing home sales and the other to new buildings or additions.

The new document provides more detailed information about the jet noise, notifying buyers that “practice sessions are routinely scheduled during day and night periods” and a single flyover “may exceed 100 decibels.”

“Property in the vicinity of Ault Field and OLF Coupeville will routinely experience significant jet aircraft noise. As a result airport noise zones have been identified in the immediate area of Ault Field and OLF Coupeville. Jet aircraft is not, however, confined to the boundaries of those zones.”

Because it is difficult to determine the exact boundaries of the noise zones and where the disclosures are required, Joiner said local brokers will be encouraged to “err on the side of informing.”

The document has been circulated to various agencies, organizations and government groups, Joiner said, adding that the feedback is supportive of the new disclosure.

“Our membership ascribes to a very strict code of ethics,” Joiner said. “The consensus is that it’s a good disclosure.”

It is unclear how the previous disclosure came into common use, Joiner said, but it is the hope that this change will address community concerns.

Gremmel said she wonders why the disclosures weren’t combined back when the two disclosures were adopted in the early 1990s.

“Anyone concerned about the well-being of people in the noise zones would have thought of that, but no one was concerned,” Gremmel said. “Concern must be turned off to justify ignoring the magnitude of the jet problem.”

Jason McFadyen, a Windermere broker who also serves as president of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, said he believes brokers have issued a disclosure “in 100 percent of our transactions that do state that there is noise from an airport.”

That said, McFadyen, “as a broker and a homeowner, I am in favor of disclosing whatever is necessary for a buyer to have the most educated decision when purchasing a home.”

“If the MLS and/or local Realtor associations draft a new disclosure that goes into greater depths of the noise caused by the Navy base and OLF, then we will use it — as we do with the current noise disclosure — in every transaction we are a part of,” McFadyen said.

While the Navy cannot dictate policy for local jurisdictions, it does “recommend a comprehensive and robust disclosure process to inform potential residents about operations that can impact them,” said Mike Welding, NAS Whidbey public affairs officer.

“Additionally,” he said, “officials at NAS Whidbey Island encourage people who are considering the purchase of a home in the local area to contact the base to get complete understanding of operations at Ault Field and OLF Coupeville.”


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