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Night delivery plan stirs grousing

Neighbors of a Home Depot in Spring Hill worry that overnight activity at the store likely will cause further annoyances.

By JENNIFER FARRELL

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001


SPRING HILL -- Carmen and Elizabeth Fracasso have complained for years that noise and traffic problems moved into their quiet Regency Oaks neighborhood when Home Depot opened its doors off U.S. 19 in 1995.

They say a wall erected behind the store to help cut down on truck noise and night-time glare from the loading bays has done little to quell residents' grumbling.

"They're not very nice neighbors, I'll tell you that," said Mrs. Fracasso, 68.

Now the home improvement giant is planning to extend its delivery hours between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., worrying homeowners that more noise and night lights might soon be in store.

Don Harrison, spokesman for the Atlanta-based chain, said the store is adding the overnight delivery hours in mid to late-June as part of a nationwide initiative to cut the number of forklifts navigating busy store aisles during the day.

"It's a safety concern," he said. Employees will be mindful to keep noise down at night, he added. "We're very much aware of the proximity of our neighbors."

Since the store opened, Harrison said, employees have worked to minimize annoyances to residents. Truck drivers are instructed not to let their engines idle, and they are directed to exit directly on U.S. 19, rather than using the Regency Oaks entrance on Breakwater Boulevard.

Thelma White, 74, lives with her 81-year-old husband, John, behind Home Depot on Plumosa Street. The wall separating their yard from the store stands about 30 feet from their back door. She doesn't look forward to hearing the nightly hum of semitrailer trucks and forklifts that beep in reverse.

"I hope that's not true," she said. "It's loud enough during the daytime."

As a rule, Harrison said, the store gets about 15 truck deliveries every 24 hours. Currently, he said, there are few to no deliveries after the store closes. Most nights, that's at 9 p.m., except Fridays and Sundays, when doors close at 10 and 7 p.m., respectively.

To keep peace with neighbors and preserve quiet, Harrison said 40 percent to 50 percent of the trucks will be unloaded at the front of the store. And at the back, employees will turn off loudspeakers used to send announcements throughout the massive building. Beepers on the forklifts will be shut off after 9 p.m., Harrison said.

"The store itself is going to act as a buffer to the people behind it," he said. "We're trying to mitigate as much of this as possible."

The Fracassos hope they won't have long to contend with the issue.

In January, the couple put their Flyway Drive home on the market, adding one more "For Sale" sign to a string neighbors say have cropped up along streets that back up to Home Depot.

Fracasso, 73, says being close to the store is not why he wants to sell. The house is simply too big to handle after nine years, he said.

But his wife said noise and traffic did play a role in their decision.

"You can hear them all night," she said. "There's always trucks coming out of there."

Gloria Engert said she was unwise to buy a home so close to U.S. 19, before the commercial corridor had developed. Like the Fracassos, Engert said she and her husband Ted, 78, were told the land behind their home wouldn't be developed.

Engert thought the land was reserved for a retention basin, while the Fracassos thought the property purchased by Home Depot was owned by the state, and therefore, protected. Another neighbor thought the land was a bird sanctuary, Engert said.

Neither couple could name the person they say misled them, but Engert says now they were naive to make assumptions.

"It was beautiful with all those trees," she said. "You retire, you come to Florida, people take you down the garden path and they even hold your hand."

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