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Fairfax Supervisors, Residents to Revisit Noise Rules

by Karen Goff April 6, 2015 at 3:00 pm 5 Comments

Sign at dog park at Baron CameronIf your dog barks late at night you and your neighbors complain, you could get a ticket under proposed new Fairfax County noise ordinance changes.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will vote on Tuesday to authorize a public hearing on changes to the noise ordinance that will aim to guarantee residents a little peace and quiet at night.

The public hearing will be held May 12 at 4 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center. If approved, the changes will go into effect the next day.

Here are some of the changes county staff seeks to make:

Activities on School and Recreational Grounds — Advertise a decibel range of 60 to 72 dBA for limiting the maximum noise level for cumulative noise, when loudspeakers are used.

“People Noise” — Begin prohibition on noise that can be heard in residential districts (read: party noise) at 11:00 p.m. on weekends and the day before a holiday.

Dog Parks — Begin dog park hours at 8:00 a.m. on weekends and holidays. This may be good news to residents of Longwood Grove in Reston, who in 2014 filed an injunction against the dog park at Baron Cameron Park, saying the excessive noise begins at 5:30 a.m.

Animal Noise — Any owner or person in control of any animal that allows or otherwise permits any such animal to  bark, howl, bay, meow, squawk, quack, crow or make such other sound between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. that is plainly audible in any other residence with doors and windows closed could be in violation. There are exceptions and time rules. Read more details on the updated propoal.

Operation of Power Lawn Equipment — Permit the use of power lawn equipment, except leaf blowers, beginning at 5:30 a.m. for golf course maintenance when located more than 50 yards from a residence.

Trash Collection — No changes to current proposal.

Maximum Sound Levels — No changes to current proposal.

See all changes, exceptions and conditions in this chart from the county.

The county is seeking to use a proposed new Noise Ordinance to replace the current Noise Ordinance and the provisions that were put in place in 2013.

In late 2013, the supervisors adopted the Excessive Sound Generation in Residential Districts provisions that allowed police to ticket a resident with misdemeanor charges if neighbors complain about noise.

In early 2014, county staff presented the first draft of a new Noise Ordinance (Chapter 108.1 of the County Code) to a Board of Supervisors’ committee.

The county held a series of public hearings in 2014, and in February 2015 developed an updated draft noise ordinance amendment and summary chart and requested guidance on several issues.

Baron Cameron Dog Park/file photo

  • Arielle in NoVA

    The animal noise portion: one bark, meow, etc. from time to time shouldn’t get someone a ticket. There should be guidelines about repeated problems or for noise extending for a length of time. This – as described here – is too vague.

    • Karen Goff

      Click through to read the details on the changes. There is a time amount, etc. It is just too complex to write it word-for-word here.

      • Arielle in NoVA

        Thanks, I did; they only mention a length of time and/or frequency for daylight hours. The way it’s written, if you let your dog out between 10p and 7a to relieve itself and it barks loudly enough once for a non-protective, non-pain-related reason (to be let in, for instance, or asking you to play, or because it’s excited by a squirrel or rabbit) to be heard inside a neighbor’s closed house, you could be written up. Now, most neighbors wouldn’t report this, but the law leaves the option open for a penalty.

        “…bark, howl, bay, meow, squawk, quack, crow or make such other sound:
        (1) between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. that is plainly audible in any other persons residence with doors
        and windows closed and the source of sound generation shall be discernible regardless of whether such
        doors or windows are closed;
        or
        (2) between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. when the animal sound is plainly audible and discernible across
        real property boundaries or through partitions common to residential dwellings and such sound can be
        heard for more than two (2) consecutive or non-consecutive minutes in any ten (10) minute period of time.
        Animal sounds that can be heard for less than two (2) consecutive or non-consecutive minutes in any ten
        (10) minute period shall not be subject to this Chapter.

        The provisions of this paragraph shall not apply to any animal that, at the time of the sound or sound
        generation, was responding to pain or injury or was protecting itself, its kennel, its offspring, or a person
        from an actual threat; or when the animal is a police dog that is engaged in the performance of its duties
        at the time of making the sound. This provision shall apply to all animal sounds emanating from the same
        – Fairfax County Code
        CHAPTER 108.1 – Noise.
        1/29/15
        Fairfax County, Virginia, Code of Ordinances Page 6
        property.

        Notwithstanding the provisions of this paragraph, animals located in a dog park shall be subject
        to the provisions of Par. (l) below.

        (l) The use of dog parks between dusk and 7 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, or between dusk and
        9:00 a.m. on Friday, Saturday and the day before a Federal holiday.”

        • Arielle in NoVA

          Additional note: the timing for dog park use at the very end is a little strange in its wording. They probably mean for the later end time of 9am to be on Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the mornings of federal holidays, but the way it’s phrased it sounds like regular noises are OK after 7am on Sunday mornings but on Friday mornings the dog parks need to be quiet until 9am.

  • Fairfax Watcher

    Thanks very much to the RESTON NOW for running the news about the MAJOR overhaul of Fairfax Code 108, “Noise”. Comments below are worthy for sending on to the County; the Fairfax news release of 7 April, 2015, has a great summary of the new 108. Recommend everyone read this summary and let the County know what you like or DON’T like! Apartment residents: if you can no longer stand the noise of the dumpsters being emptied: PLEASE tell the County that you are fed up with being rocked out of bed at 6:00AM by the dumpster truck banging that big steel box!! The County just doesn’t care about you…remind that you vote even if you don’t own a house!!!!

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