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Community sparsely turns out for noise ordinance public hearing

Friday, Jul. 11 | By Hannah Dellinger
Despite the large outpour of online community discourse about the proposed changes to the county’s noise regulations, only one person showed up to speak at the Board of Supervisors' public hearing Thursday night.

The supervisors plan on changing what has been deemed a vague and unenforceable sound ordinance, because of a Virginia Supreme Court 2009 ruling in Tanner v. Virginia Beach, which deemed a similar ordinance unconstitutional. As the law stands now, the creation of noise that is “unreasonably loud,” “disturbing” or unnecessary” can be charged as a Class 4 misdemeanor.

In order to make the law more enforceable, Fauquier plans on moving towards a “plainly audible” standard. This would mean that any noise that is “plainly audible in any other person’s residential dwelling or place of business with the doors and windows of that residential dwelling or place of business closed.

Instead of a misdemeanor offense punishable with a $250 fine, a noise violation would become a civil violation with a penalty of $250 for the first offense and $500 for each following offense.

The proposed change to the ordinance includes several exemptions for agricultural activities, sporting events, lawful hunting or other lawful firearm discharges.

Jonathan Whichard, a resident of the Cedar Run District, was the only member of the community to voice his opinion at the public hearing. He made it clear that he believes that the way that the ordinance currently defines a noise violation is constitutional and that it should not change.

“I personally don’t see anything vague in the ordinance as it exists now,” said Whichard. “This particular ordinance has been in existence for over 11 years…This ordinance on a major basis was based on the health of the community.”

Whichard brought up one particular part of the ordinance regarding engine brakes.

The current ordinance doesn’t allow for drivers of commercial heavy trucks to use engine brakes, a mechanism that slows the vehicle down by retarding the forces within the engine. This process can be noisy, but some believe that in an emergency situation engine breaking can prevent potential catastrophe.

The proposed change to the noise ordinance specifies that engine breaking is allowable in emergency situations.

Supervisor Chris Granger addressed the matter and said that the board should take time to discuss the wording regarding engine breaking in the ordinance more fully.

“I’m curious because engine breaking…in and of itself is not something that is just an emergency activity,” he said. “An engine break in a properly maintained vehicle is not a nuisance. What’s a nuisance is a gutted muffler.”

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