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Fairfax County Still Working on Amended Noise Rules

by Karen Goff July 21, 2015 at 9:30 am 13 Comments

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

  • Robert Travaano

    They have spent 2 years on a noise law change? I guess when lobbyists aren’t holding their hands and crafting the law for them the corrupt democrats aren’t sure what to do.

    • Mike M

      No matter stands to make or lose money off this yet. When that threshold is crossed, a lobbyist will write the law for them.

  • Reston Resident

    All of this is so silly. I am sure the actual rules are more specific, but there are still huge gaps. In some neighborhoods the houses are so close together that you can hear people talking. Does that qualify as “party noise”? Does that mean you can’t sit on your deck in the evening and have a conversation with a few laughs? I just can’t believe that if you are having friends over there will now be a 11pm curfew when you have to go inside.

    • Chuck Morningwood

      That’s part of the problem with living in a townhouse community. I like to sleep with the windows open. it’s difficult to do that when somebody is yucking it on their deck. 11 pm seems like a good compromise.

      • Mike M

        Maybe, on those nights, sleep with the windows closed?

        • Greg

          RELAC, maybe?

        • Chuck Morningwood

          Or maybe, on those nights, you take the party back insides, unless you want FCPD knocking on your door.

          • Mike M

            I was going to write that to mock you. I decided to be nice. If you want the FCPD to chase after folks who talk on their deck after 11 so you don’t have to shut your windows, . . .you are the problem.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            Or maybe the people who can’t respect the noise ordinance are the problem. I don’t run my power saw or angle grinder at 7 am (when it’s legal to do so) out of consideration for my neighbors. Is it really too much for my neighbors to consider my sensibilities when they’re engaging in drunken revelrie in the middle of the friggin night?

          • Mike M

            Yes.

  • Mike M

    And you call yourself Reston Resident. If you were a true reston Resident, you would know that it is your business to curb to the max any and all activities of your neighbors. That is the RAs job one and they are always hard at work for you. In this case the County is “Restonizing.”

  • cRAzy

    SAY WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR WHAT YOU’RE WRITING BECAUSE OF ALL THE NOISE MY DRUNKEN NEIGHBORS ARE MAKING. MAYBE PUT IT ALL IN BOLD CAPS! THANKS!

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Wow. It’s nice to know that that I can fire up my table saw as early as 7 am on Saturday morning.

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