Loudoun Supervisors Advance Changes to ‘Unenforceable’ Noise Rules

A Board of Supervisors committee has recommended fixes to noise rules that the sheriff’s department has been unable to enforce since 2013.

The Transportation and Land Use Committee last week recommended changes that would both eliminate the “reasonable person” standard in the codified ordinance—which the Virginia Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutionally vague in a 2009 case in Virginia Beach—and set consistent noise standards for breweries and wineries under the zoning code.

[Read about that meeting here.]

The sheriff’s office and the county zoning staff, who enforce different types of noise complaints, also are formalizing their cooperation, although LCSO Captain Greg Brown said the spirit of their work would be the same.

“Historically speaking, the relationship between deputies and zoning, it’s really not going to change, besides formalizing it and training,” Brown said.

Some noise, such as barking dogs and loud music, are covered under the county’s codified ordinances, which are enforced by the sheriff’s office. Others, such as noise produced by a business, are enforced by the county Department of Planning and Zoning. Sheriff’s deputies frequently respond to both types of complaint. Previously, they could only act as intermediaries for noises that would have been covered under the codified noise ordinance, and will continue to direct complaints about noise covered under zoning law to the zoning staff.

To clear up confusion about the two sets of noise laws, county staff members are developing answers to a set of  frequently asked questions to post online, and are also establishing standards for where and how to sample noise levels from businesses.

Committee members also asked the staff to develop zoning amendments to apply uniform noise standards for breweries and wineries, both farm and commercial.

“I think unless you have some compelling reason why not, I think these should all be regulated the same,” said Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin). “They’re very similar uses in very similar circumstances.”

“It’ll be important for the public, it’ll be important for the property owner,” said Chairwoman Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian). “And it’s important not only for our sheriff’s deputies, but for zoning enforcement, that we have everything at one set standard so there isn’t this confusion.”

Noise levels from all types of wineries and breweries would be measured at the complainant’s property line. Previously, commercial winery noise levels were measured at the winery’s property line.

The committee forwarded its recommendations to a June 7 meeting of the full board with a recommendation for a public hearing on July 13.


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