Fairfax County Still Working on Amended Noise Rules

Lawn Mower/Credit: M01229 on FlickrAfter more than two years of public hearings and discussions, Fairfax County is still working on a new noise ordinance.

Following the latest round of hearings last spring, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has deferred until November a decision on the proposed new rules.

The board says it needs time to address issues about the plan brought up by community members at a May public hearing.

The county has been working since 2013 to put in place an amended noise ordinance. It has been working with an interim one in the meantime.

“It is the purpose and intent of the proposed ordinance to recognize that certain noise is a hazard to the public health, welfare, peace, and safety, and the quality of life of the citizens of Fairfax County,” county planners say in a 2015 staff report on the subject.

“People have a right to and should be ensured of an environment free from sound that jeopardizes the public health, welfare, peace, and safety or degrades the quality of life.”

County officials say that the overall goal of the new plan is to “recognize that there will always be certain levels of noise that occur in the normal course of daily living; allow certain levels of daytime noise so that people can live, work, and play during the day; and minimize nighttime noise so residents have an appropriate quiet environment in their homes at night.”

Of course, enforcing a noise ordinance has proven difficult in the past. The noise is only an issue if the neighbors complain, and violators would only be issued a ticket.

Officials also say they need additional time to weigh the methodology used to determine noise levels. The board will have a workshop on the subject on Sept. 11.

Here is what some of the proposed changes look like:

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.

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 proposal.

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.

Some activities are currently prohibited under the interim ordinance and will continue to be prohibited:

Night time (9 or 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.): operation of most loudspeakers, outdoor construction, outdoor motor vehicle or mechanical device repair, outdoor powered model vehicle operation, trash collection in residential districts, and the loading and unloading of trucks within 100 yards of a residence.

The county said it would grant waivers if noisemakers can prove the noise does not endanger the public health, safety or welfare; or quieting the noise would produce
serious hardship without producing equal or greater benefit to the public.

See all changes in the chart by Fairfax County.

Photo by M01229 via Flickr

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