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Our View: Venting frustration

Neighbors of Southern Oregon University's Science Building have reason for concern over the new laboratory ventilation equipment on the building's roof. SOU officials have reason to want to comply with health and environmental regulations while addressing neighbors' complaints about noise and odors. SOU officials will discuss mitigation measures they plan to take in a public information meeting tonight, which should help clear the air.

At issue are new fume hoods installed as part of a $21 million renovation. Code requirements for heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units and fume hoods have changed dramatically since the building was built in 1957.

A complaint filed by 26 neighbors in July cited 24-hour noise from the fans and the unsightly appearance of the exhaust stacks on the building's roof. Many neighbors live uphill from the building.

The university hired acoustic engineers, who took measurements and made recommendations to limit the noise, including reducing stack motors  to half power and installing acoustic dampening material. As for the appearance, the city noted during the approval process for the project in 2014 that a screen was required for rooftop installations. The architect was able to secure an exception to that requirement, arguing that the previous equipment was not screened and the existence of large trees would be sufficient.

Judging by the neighbors' comments, granting that exception may have been a mistake. SOU should consider restoring the screening requirement, and neighbors should attend tonight's meeting with an open mind, and give the mitigation measures a chance.