Fairfax County and other localities in Virginia have not been enforcing noise ordinances since 2009, when the Supreme Court of Virginia struck down Virginia Beach’s noise ordinance as unconstitutionally vague in Tanner, et al. v. City of Virginia Beach, 277 Va. 432 (2009). Virginia Beach’s ordinance prohibited “unreasonably loud, disturbing and unnecessary” noise that is “detrimental to the life or health of persons of reasonable sensitivities.” The noise at issue involved hip-hop, punk rock and indie music pumping from Virginia Beach’s Peppermint Beach Club on Atlantic Avenue.
The language in Fairfax County’s old noise ordinance was very similar to the Virginia Beach ordinance, prohibiting “any unnecessary sound which annoys, disturbs or perturbs reasonable persons with normal sensibilities.” By contrast, Fairfax County’s new noise ordinance will prohibit noise “that is audible in any other person’s residential dwelling with the doors and window’s to the other person’s residential dwelling closed.”
Arlington County is also working on updating its noise ordinance, proposing to prohibit amplified sound over specific distances (20 feet from the sound in another dwelling or 50 feet across property boundaries), or barking or squawking at least once per minute for 10 consecutive minutes. The “squawking” prohibition may be in anticipation of backyard chickens – a topic worthy of its own blog post and major public education about Virginia’s mandatory and immediate death sentence for chicken-killing dogs.
With the old ordinances, local officers became particularly adept at trying to resolve noise conflicts in creative ways. Hopefully these efforts will not fully disappear as jurisdictions amend their noise ordinances. Slapping someone with a ticket or a lawsuit is much less effective that solving the underlying problem – particularly with an incessantly barking dog. For excellent ideas about how to address excessive barking, take a look at this recent blog post by trainer Veronica Sanchez with Cooperative Paws in Vienna, Virginia!