Alexandria Looking to Tighten Noise Regulations, Doubling Fines

The City of Alexandria could be restricting noise limits citywide, and double violations fines as part of new ordinances.

City staff are proposing a citywide noise limit of 65 decibels (about the volume of a normal conversation) in a public place within 10 feet of a structure, and nothing louder than 75 decibels (about the volume of an average dishwhasher) in a public place within 50 feet of a structure.

Previously, those limits only applied to Alexandria’s Central Business District.

In a presentation shared with residents, officials note that the existing 53-year-old noise regulations on the books are long overdue for an update. The old rules don’t include information about loading times for delivery trucks and measuring noise across property lines, for example.

Now staff are proposing several updates, including:

  • A loading truck ban from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day.
  • A quiet hours designation for “plainly audible sound” in residential areas, from 11 p.m.-7 a.m.
  • Limiting the hours of outdoor cleaning equipment (like power washers) to match the hours set aside for lawn equipment: 7 a.m.-9 p.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. on weekends.
  • Limiting pet noise: nothing audible from neighboring houses for more than five minutes during the day, or anytime at night if the barking (or other animal noise) is audible to neighborhoods with closed windows and doors closed.

The proposed changes would also double the existing penalties for breaking noise ordinances: from $50 to $100 for the first violation, $100 to $250 for the second violation, and $250 to $500 for the third violation.

However, the new regulations would keep several, long-standing exemptions, including aircraft noise which residents have long protested, as well as Metrorail trains and road work.

Any changes in Alexandria will require approval from the City Council before going into effect. The city is currently accepting comments about the proposed changes.

“We’re in the middle of a public outreach process,” said Department of Transportation & Environmental Services spokeswoman  Sarah Godfrey. “Once we review all comments, we’ll address those raised before submitting a final revision to Council for consideration. We expect to go to Council early next year.”

Godfrey said the recommended increase in fines is based what other nearby jurisdictions impose.

“The current fines are outdated,” she told ALXnow. “We looked at the fine structures of our neighboring jurisdictions and worked to come up with comparable, reasonable amounts.”

Staff are also proposing to create a new noise institutional zoning category of noise regulations, to cover schools, public buildings, and places of worship that fall outside the city’s other, existing categories (residential, commercial, and industrial.) Properties that fall under this new category could allow a higher threshold for noise (65 decibels) than residential properties (55 decibels), but lower than industrial areas (70 decibels.)

Image via Flickr/Phil Roeder

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