County Adopts New Noise Standards

Loudoun Supervisors have adopted new noise standards for Loudoun businesses, finishing a months-long process to update all of the county’s noise rules.

As opposed to the codified noise ordinances, which are enforced by the sheriff’s office and deal with problems like noisy cars and dogs and which were updated in July, supervisors on Oct. 20 updated the noise rules in the county’s zoning ordinances, which apply mostly to businesses and problems like the droning of data center cooling systems.

Existing businesses, however, are grandfathered in.

Under the new standards, noise levels will be measured at the property line of a complaining property, rather than at the property line of the business creating the noise. The ordinance now also specifies a device and method for measuring noise, and sets out maximum allowable noise levels—from 55 decibels at residential and rural uses, to 70 decibels for industrial uses.

For reference, Supervisor Tony R. Buffington Jr. (R-Blue Ridge) brought one of the noise meters the county will use around his district and into the boardroom. Some western Loudoun residents have been asking for quieter standards, as low as 45 decibels. Buffington said in a quiet area off a rural road, the background noise of nature was at 40.5 decibels.

Board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) borrowed the sound meter and asked for silence in the boardroom, measuring 55 decibels.

“There’s not a lot of reason to try to say we’re going to go down to 45 decibels,” Buona said. “It’s not realistic. It’s less than silence in this room.”

Nonetheless, Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) attempted to lower the rural standard to 45 decibels, but couldn’t find a seconder for her motion.

The new noise standards are the same for residential and industrial uses and five decibels higher for commercial uses. There is also a new mixed-use residential standard that allows slightly more noise than other residential areas.

The ordinance also has a number of exemptions, including aircraft noise, school activities, construction and demolition, generator testing, air conditioners for townhouses and houses, and noise from public utilities.

Some supervisors felt the ordinance wasn’t yet ready for a vote—Supervisors Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) and Umstattd voted against it. And some western Loudoun residents are not content with the revisions.

“It’s strange,” said Bluemont resident Marvin Watts. “You protect noise, not citizens. You embrace disease, not health.”

rgreene@loudounnow.com
@RenssGreene

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