The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors heard public testimony about proposed amendments to the county’s noise ordinance last week, and promptly sent the proposal back to staff and the board’s Development Process Committee for more work. More than 30 people testified, many expressing concern about noise from high school sports practices, and dog parks. One gentleman brought a video of a high school practice near his home in McLean where pre-recorded music was played, very loudly. Efforts to work with the school administration to reduce the noise level obviously were not successful, although some board members said that school practices were not a problem in their districts because of the partnerships worked out between schools and the residents.
Noise from off-leash dog areas, or dog parks, was highlighted by several speakers, but the communications I received from Mason District constituents expressed concern that usage times at dog parks might be restricted. The proposed ordinance language would restrict opening of dog parks until 8 a.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays which, according to many constituents, is too late for people who work on the weekends. The opening times will be revisited. Other constituents are concerned that proposed penalties for adjudicated noise violations should be civil, rather than criminal, and I have asked that the penalties be revisited. Of nearly 9000 noise complaints received by the Fairfax County Police Department last year, just 18 went to court, so it appears that compliance is readily achieved on the first visit from the police about a noise complaint.
Surely, noise can be an issue in a community as densely populated as ours. Continued use of leaf blowers and lawn mowers, dogs that bark excessively, industrial and mechanical equipment that squeaks and cycles in the middle of the night – all can be plainly audible at one’s property line, which is a current measurement for determining noise violations. The question is how to address the noise of daily commerce and activity that is deemed reasonable, with those occasional, but very troubling, excesses that can disturb the quiet enjoyment of one’s home. Finding that sweet spot, or spots, still is elusive, and more work is needed.
It seems awfully early for Memorial Day, but this weekend signals the start of summer for many families. As pools open, picnics get eaten, and thoughts turn to planning vacations and summer camp, let’s keep in mind the real meaning of Memorial Day. Originally started to remember Civil War dead, Memorial Day, we all can pause to reflect on the heroic actions of hundreds-of-thousands-of active duty personnel who died, while serving in our Armed Forces, whether at home and abroad. Their sacrifices allow us to observe Memorial Day in peace and freedom.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]