- Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 June 2013 11:13
- Published on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 11:12
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King George Supervisors last week on June 4 unanimously adopted a revised draft noise ordinance following a second public hearing with some new amendments.
The new ordinance was developed by county attorney Eric Gregory with lots of input from the Board of
Supervisors, Sheriff Steve Dempsey and members of the public during two advertised public hearings.
The first hearing was on May 7 with 18 commenting, and eleven of those from Fairview Beach. After numerous amendments, the second public hearing last Tuesday drew three residents providing comments, all from Fairview Beach.
Peggy Myruski complained that she can’t hear her television in the house on weekend evenings due to the noise from music emanating from the restaurants along the beach. Those restaurants are actually in Maryland, since they are on piers in the Potomac River, which is owned by Maryland, which also collects their tax dollars.
She also said that setting the decibel level at 70 on weekend evenings means they can’t go to sleep before midnight and sends a message that the restaurants are “more important than we are.”
Andy Myruski and Terry O’Toole, who had both spoken last month at the first hearing, took a more conciliatory tone, with both agreeing that the proposal was a good start to replace the existing ordinance that had been found to be unenforceable due to vagueness.
Both also urged that reports be requested from the Sheriff at board meetings over the next few months, as had previously been suggested, with an eye to tightening the ordinance.
One big change was to delete a section that would have addressed such things as habitually barking dogs and other frequent or repeated noise. Supervisors have tasked the county attorney to develop another ordinance that would address such nuisances.
The new ordinance is based on decibel levels and also contains some significant exceptions and exemptions.
PROHIBITED NOISE GENERALLY
The ordinance makes it unlawful for anyone to create any noise or sound which exceeds the decibel level of 75 between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. It further makes it unlawful for creating noise which exceeds the decibel level of 65 during the night-time of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Those decibel levels and times apply only to Sunday through Thursday.
There is an exception for weekend nights that is applied as follows:
On Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to midnight (12 a.m.), the allowable decibel level is 70.
That exception when the decibel level of 70 applies is also between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. on “nights preceding federal and state-recognized holidays.” That was intended to apply to Thursday nights of holiday weekends, but presumably would also apply to Sunday nights when a holiday falls, or is moved, to Mondays.
EXCEPTIONS & EXEMPTIONS
Exceptions would include such things as alarms for the purpose of alerting people to an emergency, emergency work, and sirens made by any emergency vehicle, along with the lawful discharge of firearms and noise caused by activities related to the repair and maintenance of public utility systems, equipment and roads.
The sounds of booming gun testing or other noises from the Naval Base at Dahlgren or other military installations, along with any other noise created by any governmental activity, are lawful and are included as exceptions in the new noise ordinance, as in the old one.
The provisions of the proposed ordinance would also continue to exempt noise caused by agricultural, horticultural and silvicultural activities, and sound from places of worship, including church bells.
Other exemptions include sound traditionally associated with sporting events, sound from events conducted, authorized or permitted by the Department of Parks & Recreation and the school division and sounds emanating from the lawful operation of public or private landfills, utilities, and electrical power generation and transmission facilities.
New exemptions include those for sound produced by electrical power generators during electrical power outages at any time, and sound produced by home improvement, lawn maintenance and gardening activities between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Also exempted between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. are sounds produced from sawmill operations and those produced by “public and/or permitted ceremonies, celebrations, parades, sporting and other events.”
RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PROPERTY OWNER
In addition to those creating or causing noise, it is unlawful for a property owner to knowingly allow noise prohibited under the ordinance. The owner may also be charged with a violation in addition to the person creating the noise.
ENFORCEMENT & MEASUREMENT
Enforcement of the ordinance would be through complaints made to the King George Sheriff’s Office or by the Virginia State Police.
The measurement of the noise would be by the use of properly calibrated decibel meters made at any point within the receiving property affected by the noise.
Civil fines of $250 would be assessed for a first offense, with $500 assessed for a second offense within a one-year period. A third offense with a year would constitute a Class 2 misdemeanor, which is a criminal offense, and the offender would be subject to those penalties applicable under state law. Those violations could draw higher fines with possible jail time.