Spotsylvania News

Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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Noise ordinance review

Changes to the county’s noise ordinance are up for discussion after a public hearing flopped on Sept. 8. Residents who attended the public hearing were confused with what the changes would be because there was no documentation at the meeting for them to review. Then there was discussion that two of the county’s largest districts are exempt from any noise ordinance, but there was no map to show where these areas are. Supervisor Emmitt Marshall wanted to make sure his property was still exempt from the ordinance, and it is.

The chief change is the use of the word "plainly audible" when talking about dog barking. Plainly audible means any sound that can be detected by a person using his or her

unaided hearing facilities. As an example, if the sound source were a portable or personal

vehicular sound amplification or reproduction device, the enforcement officer need not

determine the title of the song, specific words, or the artist performing the song. The detection of

the rhythmic base component of the music is sufficient to constitute a plainly audible sound.

If the dog bark is plainly audible from inside one’s home, then the dog owner is in violation. 

All references to felonies for animal abuse was removed because County Attorney Jacob Stroman says the county does not have the authority to punish felony crimes. 

Noise from animals: It shall be unlawful for any person to allow within the county barking or other noises to be made by any animal under his ownership or control, so as to be plainly audible within a residential dwelling of one (1) or more members of the community for more than two cumulative hours during any twenty-four (24) hour period, provided, however, this section shall not apply to the following: Those portions of the Berkeley and Livingston Districts which are located both south of the Norton Prong Creek and Po River, except (1) within the Meadowview Estates Subdivision and Taverneer Subdivision within the Berkeley District, (2) subdivisions or developments within the resort residential zoning district and (3) subdivisions or developments with an average lot size of one and one-half (1.5) acres or less.


For the purpose of this section, a person shall be deemed to have "allowed" his

animal to bark which are plainly audible within a residential dwelling if he has once been put on notice by the county a sheriff’s department deputy or the an animal control officer warden after upon the complaints of two (2) persons who are not members of the same household, or upon the complaint of one (1) person if there are no more than two (2) households within seven hundred fifty (750) feet of the property line of the noise source, lodge a complaint alleging a violation of § 4-16 and the person thereafter fails to confine such animal inside his dwelling unit or other enclosed structure or take other action to terminate such disturbance. It shall not be necessary for the sheriff’s department or animal control officer warden to issue a new notice for each repeated occurrence.  A violation of this section shall constitute a Class 3 misdemeanor. Each instance shall constitute a separate offense. Third or subsequent violations shall constitute a Class 2 misdemeanor.




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  • gramps

    an ignorant country boy, but why do these exemptions exist? I know that exemptions have been inserted in the past. Why are we continuing the practice now? Do certain folks that live in the exempted areas get special privileges? If so, why? Help me out here.

  • dantelvock

    The rural areas have farm animals, and because of that, they were exempted, is one major reason I heard.

  • gramps

    and so do their neighbors (or neigbors did at one time) and when you live in the country who is going to complain about animal noises? Not sure I get it yet. Perhaps this ordinance is aimed squarely at dog owners and the insertion of “animals” is a politically clever way of avoiding claims of discrimination. The exemption is a PYA?

  • lgross

    Across the state – things that are acceptable in the
    “country” are not in the “suburbs”

    Hunting is a good example but so are the dogs that
    rural folks keep.. they tend to have more dogs and
    the dogs tend to be hounds and they tend to raise
    holy heck when they see other animals or people.

    But then you have folks who move down here from
    up north and get themselves a house in the
    “country’ and then realize to their horror that there
    are all sorts of things that go on in a rural area that
    are simply not allowed in the places they came from.

    Guns going off.. hunting dogs running loose, packs
    of dogs baying at the moon.. to say nothing about
    roosters at 4am…

    The rural BOS are just protecting their
    constituents…most of whom they know as families.

    It’s not the Jones down the road – It’s one of the
    sons of the Jones Family – down the road.

  • gramps

    Well, I guess the son of Jones didn’t learn anything sitting at granpa Jones knee while growing up, eh? If the city folk move to the country, surely they don’t expect all them animals they see in the fields (and probably admire as quaint and rustic) are mutes. This country is just plain litigious crazy. I am glad I won’t be around in another 15- 20 years.

  • lgross

    Litigious maybe but myopic for sure. I know this
    is a shock but there are some folks in this world
    who want the country to look “rural” like a big
    billboard but they cannot countenance the smells
    and noises.

    they want that rural “view scape” but without all
    those “extras”.

    so what they really want is the rural viewscape but
    the surburban amenities ….

    first thing they do when they move to that “rural’
    area is they have a heart attack when they
    realize that 24/7 is the roosters schedule and not
    the local rescue squad schedule.

  • gramps

    Heheh…I hope the bloody roosters squawk all night and half the day. In fact, I hope the farm animals have an old fashioned “hoedown” and just plain go nuts with noise makers and all.

  • caroldarby

    I agree, Gramps. Do certain people get certain privileges? Where I come from, a barking dog is an annoying barking dog whether it resides in Berkeley District or Lee Hill District. I wrote the BOS immediately and said I think it is discriminatory to single out certain areas. All dogowners should be treated the same — or should I say ALL citizens should be treated the same when it comes to barking dogs.

    Larry, I enjoy the peaceful (and sometimes noisey) parts of rural life; however, I consider being subjected to someone’s barking dog day and night unlawful if it interferes with my quiet and enjoyable comfort of my property. The ordinance reads in part “It shall be unlawful for any person to allow within the county prolonged or intense barking or other harsh or excessive noises to be made by any animal under his ownership or control, at any time, so as to disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of one (1) or more members of the community, . . .” Since the word “barking” usually refers to dogs, I think that was the intent. They could easily exempt farm animals and have it appear reasonable.

    For anyone who may have missed the Board hearing on September 8, there was a gentleman from Fawn Lake who had fought with the neighbor behind him for 2-1/2 years because six (6) hunting dogs housed behind him in Wienwood subdivision drove him crazy day and night. After court battles, the dog owner was fined and told to shut the dogs up. However, the saga continues on as the Virginia Supreme Court has held things up saying Virgnia localities don’t have an objective standard and cannot enforce their laws as written. This incident just happens to be within the boundaries of the protective part of the ordinance. Why should this man be put through this kind of hell? At my last house we had dogs that barked all night. We moved onto acreage in the HOPES that would never happen to us again. Larry, you make it sound like I shouldn’t have expected peace and quiet when I moved here 20 years ago! I think we should be able to expect it wherever we live.

  • lgross

    a long time though and the folks who grew up in the
    country knew that it was part of the country just like
    roosters and cow patties and snakes and spiders… and
    skunks and other “icky” things…

    For one generation after another, hunting and keeping
    hunting dogs has been a culture of those who live in
    the country .

    When folks come along and plop down a subdivision
    “in the country” because they say they “like” the
    country, I would submit that the “buffer” is the
    responsibility of the subdivision and owners not the
    responsibility of the folks who have lived there for
    generations and have long ago accepted the barking
    dogs as part of their lifestyle.

    okay.. so I’ll be the first one to yell if I had barking
    dogs next to me but you know what, I specially bought
    enough land so that I would not be next door to a
    kennel … it was my responsibility – not others.

    So if you don’t want barking dogs or rude roosters or
    junk cars next door – don’t move to where those things
    are in the first place – right?

    I’m not unsympathetic but no.. I don’t think we’re
    entitled to the same amenities in the country as in the

    As time goes by and the subdivisions push further into
    the country.. more rules will come – inevitably.

    but if you got a home in Fawn Lake – then why did it
    not have enough buffer around it in the first place or
    why did the buyer not make sure it had enough buffer?

    Why did he assume that subdivision rules applied
    outside of Fawn Lake?

    I’m mostly asking here… I see both sides.. and I do
    like to tweak the “come heres” who like to tell us about
    all the benefits they bring to this area and not discuss
    all the their “demands” that they want.

    And the one I love the best is ” We came here because
    it was such a lovely rural place and now it’s turned into
    a mess and no more people can move here anymore”.

  • caroldarby

    And, that is WHY I bought 5 acres; I previously had 3/4 acre. (The fact my builder didn’t place the house in the center of my lot where he was suppose to is another issue, so I back closer to acreage behind me.) And, how much acreage is ENOUGH? Do you think Fawn Lake’s 6 howling dogs could be buffered?

    Personally, I think it is up to the governing laws to keep up to date with the building. We know “if they build they will come” — however, if they allow, they should protect. The laws should protect ALL the people, not just the ones that were already there.

    Besides, who says all the country folks with “animal rights” live only in Berkeley and Livingston? I can agree that the majority of them probably do.

  • southwest

    The reason those two districts are excempt is because the Supervisors who represent those districts want it that way. If you want to be included like the rest of us contact your Supervisor and tell him enough is enough, “you” want to be treated like the rest of the county.

  • gramps

    where the gentleman from Fawn Lake aired his “dog barking” problem. I thought then, and still think, does Fawn Lake not have a homeowners association? In my life I have lived under the auspices of several HOA’s and all have had covenants and by-laws about dogs and cats.

    BTW I don’t recall that farm animals ever “disturb the peace” like a bunch of pooches can. Oh, an occasional rooster crow and cow mooing but not two or more hours of constant yammer. Someone said “they are exempt because their BOS member wants it that way.” I agree and the reason for the exemption is principally the dogs, hunting dogs primarily. Make no mistake about that.

  • lgross

    CD – when you buy land in the rural parts of the county – you sorta
    know that there are lots of different type things that are possible in
    the rural area that are not restricted like they are in the more
    suburban/subdivision areas of the county.

    Like for instance, there could be larger animals, manure, smells and
    flies, fields where fertilizer or even sludge is spread, tractor/combine
    noises, gunfire, etc….

    these are things that go on in rural areas and have done so for
    generations… and to restrict them all because someone has bought
    5 acres in the middle of it is not very realistic nor fair IMHO.

    I’m with you on the barking dogs in a subdivision. Having a kennel of
    dogs in a subdivision backing up to other homes is a recipe for

    but a guy who hunts and has hunting dogs and those dogs are things
    that has family has been keeping for generations is different.

    I still say if you want to be ‘protected” against the kinds of activities
    that are fairly common in rural areas that perhaps not living there is a
    decision you had some control over.

    I’m not unsympathetic but I do see both sides.

    It sort of goes back to why someone would want to live in the country
    to start with –

    My view is that noise ordinances in the rural parts of the county
    should not the same as in the more built up areas.

    that imposing suburban noise restrictions in the rural areas is
    problematical – in enforcement.

    You’ll end up with the Sheriff telling a family who has lived in the
    county for a generation or more that they no longer can have hunting
    dogs… and that does not seem right to me – although in the fringe
    areas as development pushes out – it’s probably inevitable.

    This is why Marshall and Waddy DID recognize that some parts of
    their districts that have gone suburban might has to have some
    restrictions but not the parts further out.

    this so many other issues.. needs to have folks looking at both
    sides for compromise solutions rather having one side – usually the
    newcomers – imposing demands on folks who have lived here a while.

  • lgross

    HOAs imply a subdivision and the HOA has jurisdiction of that
    subdivision – and one agrees to those restrictions as a condition of

    But would or should one expect the HOA restrictions to apply to the land
    beyond the borders of the HOA land?

    It’s kind of ironic though.. as we say that we want to protect and preserve
    rural land from encroaching development and yet it appears, at times,
    what we really want to preserve is the viewshed without also preserving
    the traditional uses of that land – and hence the people who live there.

  • gramps

    I thought the dog owner and the complainant both lived within the Fawn Lake boundaries. In that case the HOA would prevail.

    Mea Culpa, if I misunderstood the situation.

  • caroldarby

    Well, call me stupid then, because it didn’t occur to me when I purchased 5 acres to afford myself a little peace and quiet that I could be “buying into” someone else disturbing my peace and tranquility.

  • caroldarby

    The homeowner lived in Fawn Lake and he and his neighbor took the dogowner to Court. I guess because it was behind their subdivision Fawn Lake HOA wasn’t in on it or thought it wasn’t their fight. The dog owner lived in Winewood Subdivision (older subdivision that probably doesn’t have an HOA ??). I know that Sheriff and Animal Control tried (after the first Court ruling) to get Fawn Lake guys to try and settle peaceably with dogowners but dogowner would not cooperate. That’s the problem when you think two reasonable people could agree.

    I know I bought in my subdivision because of the VERY strict covenants to protect myself. Larry is right that that doesn’t necessarily pass with the land that may be adjacent to you!

    I think the BOS is trying to come up with some wording to protect everyone somewhat. Tune in to their meeting on October 13 for a NEW public hearing on the noise issue.