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New Noise Ordinance: Loud TVs Could Lead to Steep Fines

By Ethan Rothstein - ARLNow.com

Thursday - 1/23/2014, 2:00pm  ET

A Bose speakerA proposed update to the county’s noise ordinance would increase noise restrictions while quadrupling the minimum fine for violations.

The Arlington County Board will review the draft noise ordinance at its March meeting.

Among the updates to the ordinance are prohibiting anyone from playing music or TVs loud enough to be heard by a neighbor as close as 20 feet away in an apartment building or 50 feet away across a property line. From the draft:

“It shall be unlawful for any person to use, operate, or play, or to permit the use, operation or playing of, any radio, television, phonograph, record, compact disc or tape player, drum, musical instrument, loudspeaker, sound amplifier or similar device or machine which produces, reproduces or amplifies sound in such a manner as to create a noise disturbance be heard within any nearby dwelling unit, house or apartment of another person at least 20 feet from the source of the sound, or at least 50 feet from the source of the sound and either across any real property boundary or at the curb or on the edge of the pavement at any built street.”

The minimum penalty for a noise disturbance violation is proposed to increase from $25 to $100, with a maximum fine of $2,500 and up to 30 days in jail. According to the ordinance, each calendar day a violation is reported or ongoing is a separate offense. All ordinance violations require a warning before a citation can be issued, according to Arlington County Code Enforcement Section Chief Gary Greene.

“Our thinking here is that if you have your TV or stereo or amplifying device so loud that it can be heard a whole room away, clearly and audibly, that would be a disturbance enough for another person that it would be a violation,” Greene said in an email.

The new ordinance was updated partially to allow some violations to be enforced without needing sound-measuring devices — presumably the reason the words “create a noise disturbance” were edited from the above provision. The draft ordinance also forbids motorized lawnmowers and leaf blowers be used after dark and prohibits “yelling, wailing, shouting, or screaming above the level of conversation” in a residential district.

Planning staff said the updated ordinance was written after a yearlong community outreach process. One of the key points to come from the process was regulations on animal noise. In the new draft, a noise ordinance violation occurs when a neighbor hears an animal at least once a minute for 10 consecutive minutes.

All county facilities, employees and contractors with the county, including trash, recycling and leaf collectors, are exempted completely from the proposed ordinance.