Quiet Riot: ‘C’mon Feel the Noise’

Quiet Riot: ‘C’mon Feel the Noise’

County passes new noise ordinance, will revisit effectiveness in 18 months.

The Board of Supervisors is at peace with the county’s new Noise Ordinance.

“Believe it or not, that passes,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova.

On the Nov. 17 meeting of the Board of Supervisors, the Board adopted a new Noise Ordinance. The new ordinance becomes effective on Feb. 17, 2016.

“There were times during this process that I thought we would never get to this point. Let me tell you, there are competing needs, issues all over the place as to what is too noisy, what is not noisy, about what is needed and what is not,” she said.

In June, the Board had deferred action on the proposed changes to the county’s noise ordinance in June until Nov. 17.

“It was a very productive evolution through five cycles of revisions,” said Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville). “We negotiated this thing for so long.”

“We’re not totally where I want to be, but this is a significantly improved product and something I can vote for,” he said.

Supervisor Michael Frey (R-Sully) spearheaded the Board’s efforts and thanked county staff. “They've managed to grasp the things we were trying to codify,” said Frey.

The Board delayed the effective date of implementation of the new ordinance to February in order to provide time for staff training, to update County websites, and to assist staff in understanding the new regulations, according to county documents.

The Board will revisit the impact of the noise ordinance and its effectiveness in 18 months to determine what might need to be tweaked for the long run.

“I’m not happy with everything that is in here, but at this point I’m prepared to support it, but appreciate that we can revisit it,” said Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield).

Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee District) says the outcome makes the ordinance much easier to enforce.

“This turned into something entirely different from where it started. I also agree that this wasn’t intended to address every noise issue,” said McKay, “but at the end of the day it makes for better enforcement and makes it a lot more clear which made the noise ordinance difficult to enforce.”

OVERALL GOALS of the proposed Noise Ordinance is to recognize that there will always be certain levels of noise that occur in the normal course of daily living; to allow certain levels of daytime noise so that people can live, work and play during the day; and to minimize noise at night so residents have an appropriate quiet environment in their homes at night.

More than 30 speakers testified at a public hearing last May on the noise ordinance.

“When babies cannot sleep, when the elderly cannot rest, when a voice teacher cannot instruct, when a family cannot share a meal together on their patio, when a homeowner has to close her windows and move to another part of the house just to make a telephone call, when a cancer patient cannot recuperate and rest in her yard because music is amplified in the neighborhood at intrusive levels, then we know something is not right with life in Fairfax County,” said Joyce Harris of McLean.

Sheila Casey, of Reston, said she can hear mowers on a nearby golf course before dawn with maintenance crews sometimes using headlights on lawnmowers before 5 a.m. “All I know is when those lawn mowers are running, I can turn on my air conditioning, I can put in my earplugs, and I still hear the noise,” she said.

Other speakers included: Greg Budnik who discussed helicopter noise from training runs at Fort Belvoir; Mark Grove of Fairfax whose wife was recuperating from cancer treatment and had to contend with music from a supermarket across the street that had permits to play music until 11 p.m.; Keith Elgin, worship director of Vine Church in Dunn Loring, who wants to create events such as outdoor movies and concerts during the summer months; to neighbors in Reston who say they can not get relief from noise of nearby dog parks; to those who take their dogs to dog parks to spare neighbors from noise.

AMPLIFIED MUSIC from loudspeakers at schools during athletic practices and pregame festivities took center stage.

Fairfax County Public Schools will replace loudspeakers at McLean High School with regulators to ensure that they are properly calibrated.

The school system is finalizing regulatory guidelines so athletic directors know exactly what needs to be done to keep harmony with neighborhoods in proximity with the schools.

“That’s a big deal, and let’s make sure when that agreement is formally adopted that we keep it with our noise ordinance,” said Bulova.

Other topics of major concern addressed dog parks, trash pickups from commercial shopping centers next to neighborhoods, and lawn maintenance.

Fairfax and other Virginia governments had to rewrite their noise ordinance as a result of a Virginia Supreme Court decision overturning the ordinance in Virginia Beach, according to county documents.

For more, see http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/zoning/noiseordinance/