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Neighbors To Kings Island: Please Cut The Noise

Tana Weingartner
Scott Meyer (left) and Ken Taylor stand by a pond on Taylor's property, which borders Kings Island on three sides. Diamondback and the new Orion coaster are visible just over their heads.

While amusement park enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting the opening of Kings Island's new giga coaster Orion in 2020, people who live nearby are anticipating a nightmare.

It's quiet and peaceful right now at Ken Taylor's farmhouse situated by a pond off Western Row Rd., but he and his neighbors are worried about what may be coming.

"We're concerned about it but we also know where it's built, it's going to affect the people in Kings Mills and Hamilton Township, the River's Bend development (and) probably Mason," says Taylor.

He'stalking about Orion, the nearly 300-foot-tall giga coaster under construction within sight of his back yard. Taylor and community members in neighborhoods bordering Kings Island are scared the noise created by trains thundering down the tracks will be too much to handle. They've been dealing with the noise from Diamondback for a decade.

"The windows rattle," Taylor explains. "You can hear the thumping about - I think it's like every 60 seconds a train rides - and it roars through and on a nice, still, quiet evening it feels like it's coming across your bed."

The neighbors say they met with Kings Island officials ten years ago when the coaster was built but say they were told there wasn't much that could be done to mitigate the track noise.

Neighbors agree they knew what they were signing up for when they moved next door to an amusement park, though in Taylor's case, his family was here before Kings Island. The park sits partially on land that once belonged to his grandparents.

"We never imagined that something that big and that loud would be built," Taylor says. "Now our concern is that with this new giga coaster coming in - which is exponentially larger than the Diamondback but the same manufacturer, same technology, exact same coaster just bigger - it's going to be much louder."

For the most part, neighbors say park noise isn't obnoxious and they treat it like white noise. During much of the season, the park closes down around 10 p.m. The problems pick up in late August and the fall when the park stays open later, with coasters running, neighbors say, until one or two o'clock in the morning on weekends.

Scott Meyer lives a few streets over from Taylor. He's filed police reports with Mason and Deerfield Township in hopes of someone enforcing noise ordinances. A sound engineer hired by the neighbors in October recorded nighttime noise levels exceeding Mason's rules. Meyer took that information to the Mason City Council asking them to make Kings Island quiet things down after 10 p.m.

"The response from the city of Mason was, 'Well, yeah, we know that there's an ordinance out there. We know Kings Island is in all likelihood breaking that ordinance, but we're going to choose to not enforce it.' And to me, that's a gut punch."

Mason City Manager Eric Hansen says while the rule is still on the books, it's outdated, difficult to enforce and has outgrown its usefulness.

"Noise doesn't trespass in a straight line," he says. "We've had circumstances where it's difficult to identify the source of the noise because it may be jumping over... you don't hear it for a half mile or so and suddenly it appears to be impacting residents. Individuals perceive noise differently."

Mason's attorney, Jeff Forbes, told residents at an October council meeting the acceptable decibel levels spelled out in the ordinance were pulled from OSHA regulations and were meant to protect manufacturing workers many years ago. The city, he said, is now left to determine if those rules - while still on the books - are enforceable.

It's also complicated by the fact that Kings Island was annexed into Mason in the '90s. So while the neighbors' properties border the park, they're in Deerfield Township, outside Mason's jurisdiction.  Hansen recommends the neighbors try to work out the issue with Kings Island.

The neighbors say they've always done that. Whenever there's been a problem, they've reached out to whomever was running the park and worked things out. Until, they say, Cedar Fair took over the amusement park and built Diamondback. Neighbors say they met with Cedar Fair officials but were told there wasn't much they could do about the loud tracks.

Then a second gut punch this summer: The neighbors came across a solution used on the same type of roller coaster built by the same company, which is also manufacturing Orion.

"You can go and fill the track with sand," Meyer explains. "And not only have they done this, but they've done this at other Cedar Fair parks with the same manufacturer of roller coaster, and according the video, it's quieted it down and it's made it to the point where the neighbors could still maintain some quality of life."

Neighbors say they met with Kings Island leaders and asked for sand to be added to Orion's rails before construction began, but have heard nothing from the park.

WVXU reached out to Kings Island. The park issued a statement saying it's aware of its neighbors' concerns and is currently reviewing them along with action steps that may be necessary to resolve them.

In the meantime, the neighbors say they're done being silent in order to get some peace and quiet.

Editors note: This story has been updated to clarify that neighbors say they did meet with Kings Island officials about the noise when Diamondback was built 10 years ago.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.