The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Noise policy on hold in K.G.
BY CATHY DYSON
King George County supervisors want a noise ordinance that will keep residents from cranking up the music on Saturday nights and disturbing their neighbors, but it will be a couple of months before they get one.
On Tuesday, the board made some noise about an ordinance, but wasn’t prepared to nail down specifics, such as what decibel readings might be allowed during the day and what might bother neighbors at night. Supervisors agreed to look over the ordinance proposed by County Attorney Matt Britton and come back in November with suggested changes.
By that time, Sheriff Steve Dempsey also will have purchased some decibel meters and done some testing to see what levels might be acceptable. He wasn’t able to make a recommendation Tuesday night and instead presented ordinances from eight other localities, which have vastly different standards for what are considered maximum permissible sound levels.
When Britton said the board would need to pick measurements for its ordinance, members weren’t prepared to fill in those blanks.
“There’s no prescribed number for it, it’s our best guess,” said Supervisor Joe Grzeika.
Throughout the discussion, Chairman Cedell Brooks Jr. asked for a simple ordinance that would prohibit a resident from playing music too loud on Saturday nights, “keeping people up all night and we need to go to church the next morning.” But as Britton has done in past meetings, he pointed out that crafting an ordinance is a complex matter, as well as a political one. Board members must decide what time loud noises—such as music from live bands or blaring radios—should be turned down a few notches at night, as well as whether it wants to limit construction, forest and sawmill activity to certain hours.
Dempsey reported that there have been 123 noise complaints this year, and 75 percent have been about loud music, children, dogs, fireworks and gatherings. Another 20 percent of the complaints pertain to noise from parties, shooting and dirt bikes, and the remaining 5 percent of complaints are about noise caused by the Navy base at Dahlgren, the sheriff said.
In most cases, people will turn down the music when a deputy responds to a complaint, Britton said. But he said the county needs an enforceable ordinance for the remainder of the cases, for people who say they don’t have to do what the deputy asks because the county doesn’t have an ordinance in place.
The county’s old ordinance was based on noise levels that would be considered a nuisance to a reasonable person, and was based on one in Virginia Beach. In 2009, the Virginia Supreme Court determined that the Virginia Beach ordinance was unconstitutionally vague, because what bothers one person may not bother another.
King George didn’t experience the fallout of that decision until June 2012, when a judge threw out a noise ordinance violation, saying the existing ordinance isn’t valid.
After the sheriff brings back data on his tests, the board will finalize its ordinance, then hold a public hearing on the matter.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425