The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
K.G. to consider new noise rules
By CATHY DYSON
Deputies in King George County are learning that common courtesy only goes so far when they have to ask people to turn down loud music after a complaint.
“Some people are very good about it and will turn it down out of respect for their neighbors,” said Sheriff Steve Dempsey, “and some don’t.”
But when residents learn the county doesn’t have a valid noise ordinance, some people get even less courteous, Dempsey said.
A few weeks ago, a resident whose loud music brought about a neighbor’s complaint looked at the deputy who responded and said: “You can’t do anything about it, so leave,” Dempsey said.
That’s why he and Commonwealth’s Attorney Matt Britton want a a new ordinance. Britton got permission from the King George supervisors on Tuesday to research new language.
About five years ago, King George approved an ordinance based on one in Virginia Beach. It prohibited unreasonable noise levels or those which would be considered a nuisance to a reasonable person.
The Virginia Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that Virginia Beach’s ordinance was unconstitutionally vague. Justices pointed out that a noise that one person finds “loud, disturbing and unnecessary” might not bother someone else.
At the time, lawyers said the decision would impact other localities in the state, and it’s taken more than three years for it to filter down to King George.
About a month ago, the county had its first challenge of the noise ordinance since the court decision.
A judge in King George’s General District Court threw out the case, saying the existing policy isn’t valid.
“That’s what brought it to our attention,” Dempsey said.
The day after the supervisors met, Dempsey ran a report on noise complaints. It’s only mid-July, yet the county has almost as many complaints in 6 months as for each of two previous years.
There have been 97 complaints in 2012, compared to 103 in 2010 and 107 in 2011.
Dempsey said most complaints are about music being played too loud on indoor systems or from outdoor gatherings with bands and DJs. There are also complaints from residents of apartment buildings about noisy neighbors.
Britton told the supervisors there are two other options for a noise ordinance—one that specifies what distance from homes, schools or parks noises can be heard and another that measures it with a decibel meter.
Dempsey favors the meter system. Britton told supervisors the opposite, but Dempsey said Thursday he prefers the meter because it provides a precise measurement. Stafford County and Fredericksburg police use decibel readers.
Dempsey and Britton will research ordinances of other localities in the area and present a report to the board.
Supervisor Dale Sisson Jr. said he was “the slowest to come around” and recognize the need for a noise ordinance when the first one was put in place. At the time, he agreed with fellow Supervisor Joe Grzeika, who said “you can’t legislate civility.”
This time around, Sisson said there is a need to provide a tool for the Sheriff’s Office.
“Because of the challenges we do see relative to the noise pollution and noise disturbances,” he said, “we need to come up with something.”
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425