Residents living in eastern Mooresville are seeking help from elected officials because they say incessantly loud noises emanating from the new Tristone Flowtech manufacturing facility nearby have ruined their quality of life and their homes’ resale values.
“It’s like living at the end of the Charlotte Airport runway,” said Frank Taylor, who resides in the Cherry Grove subdivision and within earshot of the Tristone auto-hose manufacturing plant. Taylor, and other neighbors, claim the plant’s loud steam releases, occurring from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., have disrupted their lives.
Taylor, and other neighbors living in the adjacent Northbridge subdivision and along Wiggins Road and N.C. 801, also worry which industries will next move in to Mooresville Business Park East, the 476-acre industrial park currently home to Tristone, MacLean-Fogg and soon the NGK Ceramics plant expansion. Roughly 106 acres of the industrial park, or 22 percent, are currently sold or under contract, said Jessica Stewart, director of community development for the Iredell County Economic Development Corp.
“We did not buy houses next to a railroad track and then come to you and complain about the trains coming down the tracks,” said Northbridge subdivision resident Jim Loughrie, addressing the Mooresville Board of Commissioners during a public comment period Oct. 7. “We bought our houses in this area, beautiful homes, and you put this monster behind us.”
More than 100 residents met with town officials and Tristone representatives Sept. 24 at Triplett United Methodist Church to discuss a solution to the noise problem. Homeowners want local officials to enforce an Iredell County noise ordinance which prohibits business noises near residences between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. Taylor also said Tristone is in violation of a town general industrial zoning ordinance which indicates land for industrial uses should be operated in a relatively clean and quiet manner.
Residents are also concerned if Tristone adds a planned third shift, the noises could continue all night.
Through email, Randall Hebbert, quality and environmental manager of Mooresville’s Tristone production plant, said plans to add a third shift have been put on hold until a solution can be reached. “Tristone Flowtech USA is aware of our neighbor’s concerns regarding the sound of the steam release from our facility,” Hebbert wrote. “Since learning of these concerns, we have been working towards a solution. This includes both short term and long term countermeasures. We have implemented process modifications that have greatly reduced the sound of the steam release.”
Mooresville Town Manager Randy Hemann told the Board of Commissioners Oct. 7 the long-term solution may be the installation of silencers or noise suppressors at the plant. The town also plans on taking 22-hour baseline sound samples based on the changes Tristone makes, Hemann said.
Taylor acknowledged the temporary process modifications have so far made a difference in noise levels. But, he and other neighbors are still worried if Tristone will keep its promise to be a responsible corporate citizen.
General Industrial Zoning Designation
In December 2017, Tristone Flowtech USA, a subsidiary of German-based Tristone Flowtech Group, announced plans to invest $23.6 million to launch its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Mooresville. The company is a full-system provider of engine and battery cooling systems as well as air charge and air intake applications for the automotive industry. The Mooresville facility manufactures auto hoses and, in the future, plastic pipe and plastic surge tanks for engine and battery cooling application.
Tristone’s approximate 215,000-square foot plant began production in May 2019 on Manufacturers Boulevard. At first, the noises were intermittent, Taylor said. But once a second shift began in September, Taylor said he and neighbors began hearing two distinct noises more than 80 times a day. The first noise, an “obnoxious and intense” sound lasted for 30-40 seconds and a second, lesser noise, lasted up to three minutes, Taylor said.
The eyesore of an industrial plant is also less than pleasing, residents say.
“Could you imagine sitting on your front porch every day looking at an industrial park building?” Northbridge resident Stacy Carnahan asked the Mooresville Board of Commissioners. “Every day, I open my blinds from my bedroom window, my front porch door, and I see the industrial building every day.”
The Mooresville Business Park East property was farmland when Taylor said he moved into the Cherry Grove neighborhood nine years ago. He remembers talk of extending Pink Orchard Drive, the dead end road where he lives, to connect to a proposed 600-home subdivision built on the farmland.
That didn't happen and Taylor said he never received any notice about a public hearing about the industrial park being built on that land, he said.
However, a public hearing was held, a Mooresville Board of Commissioners agenda and meeting minutes from Dec. 17, 2012 indicate, to discuss a request by the Mooresville-South Iredell Community Development Corp., Inc. to have the property rezoned from CU-R3, or conditional use single-family residential, to GI, or general industrial, said Town Spokesperson Kim Sellers.
The re-zoning request required a “super-majority” vote, or the approval of five of the six commissioners because a formal protest petition was filed and signed by a half-dozen residents living on Mt. Ulla Highway, Sellers said. The same night, the Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the rezoning request, meeting minutes indicate. Current Commissioners Lisa Qualls, Bobby Compton, Thurman Houston and Eddie Dingler served on the board at the time with Miles Atkins serving as mayor.
The town planning board had recommended approval of the rezoning request a month earlier, the meeting minutes indicate.
“We were all there first,” said Ron Lesniewski, who lives in the Northbridge subdivision. “It is completely disappointing and upsetting to think anyone OK'ed that.”
Ray Duncombe, who lives in the Northbridge subdivision, said he believes Tristone is making a good-faith effort in finding a solution but asked the Board of Commissioners to look at its review process so in the future there won’t be similar problems with industrial parks located near residential homes.
“I think it’s pretty clear the town and the (Iredell County Economic Development Corp.) did not ask enough questions before Tristone went ahead and put their factory into the business park,” said Duncombe.
The Mooresville Business Park East is owned by the South Iredell Community Development Corp., a public/private partnership charged with developing industrial land for private sector job and investment growth. The organization also owns the adjacent Mooresville Business Park which is home to Carolina Beverage Group, Niagara Bottling, LLC, Team Penske and several other businesses.
The ICEDC does and will continue to vet projects during the recruitment process to ensure corporations meet the requirements of the community and are good fits for the community, Jenn Bosser, ICEDC president and CEO, wrote in an email. “Tristone’s production, equipment and operations is similar to other manufacturers that are located in Mooresville and across Iredell County,” Bosser wrote.