Arlington County Sets Public Meetings on Proposed Noise Control Ordinance Update

  • Two meetings scheduled for November
  • Updates to address State Supreme Court ruling, neighborhood complaints
  • Civil penalties proposed; criminal penalties beefed up

Note: this release was corrected at 5:48 a.m. on Oct. 24, 2012 to include a link to the proposed Noise Control Ordinance.

ARLINGTON, Va. – Arlington County government will hold two public meetings in November on a staff proposal to update of the County's Noise Control Ordinance, before the County Board considers setting a public hearing and vote on the proposed changes.

“Neighborhoods have expressed concern about enforcement of our current ordinance since the State Supreme Court ruled in 2009” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “In this proposal, Staff has done a good job of crafting potential solutions to the noise challenges we face as an increasingly urban community. The Board is looking forward to receiving feedback from residents and organizations after they review the proposal. Comments will be taken at two public meetings and can also be provided to the Board in writing, at Open Door Mondays or scheduled appointments with Board members.”

The Board today voted 5 to 0 to defer a decision on scheduling a public hearing and Board vote on the proposed changes until after the public has been heard from.

Complying with Virginia Supreme Court ruling

County Manager Barbara Donnellan is recommending adoption of amendments that are meant to bring the County's ordinance into compliance with a 2009 Virginia Supreme Court ruling. The ruling determined that the enforcement of noise cannot be based on a reasonable person standard, which was found to be subjective. The County's current noise ordinance is based, in part, on a reasonable person standard. The recommended changes would eliminate subjective references for enforcing noise controls and set clear, objective standards for determining violations.

“The recommendations that we are bringing before the community and the County Board will ensure that the ordinance is enforceable and complies with the State Supreme Court ruling,” Donnellan said.

Civil penalties proposed

Building on other ordinance changes related to penalties made by the County Board over the past few years, the proposed changes to the Noise Control Ordinance include, for the first time, imposing civil penalties on violators after a warning is delivered or posted on the premises. Under this provision, a fine of up to $250 for the first violation and up to $500 for all subsequent violations could be imposed. In addition, criminal penalties for violations would be increased from $25 to not less than $100 or more than $2,500 upon conviction. Other highlights include:

  • New methods to determine noise violations that occur within multi-unit buildings.
  • More clarity on exemptions.
  • Enhanced prohibited acts, to address issues such as loud music and animal noises.

Public meetings scheduled for November

County staff will hold two public meetings in November to give the public an opportunity to review and comment on the recommendations, before the County Board holds a public hearing and votes on the proposed changes. The meetings will be held:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012 Navy League Building, 2300 Wilson Boulevard — 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 Shirlington Library, 4200 Campbell Street — 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.


Arlington County adopted the Noise Control Ordinance on January 1, 1975, when the County had approximately 163,441 residents. Since then, the County's population has increased 21 percent, and many more County residents are living in multi-family dwellings. There have been only minor changes made to the ordinance since the mid-1970's.

In 2009, the Supreme Court of Virginia struck Virginia Beach's Noise Control Ordinance, due to its use of a reasonable person standard to determine violations. Since the high Court's ruling, the County has continued to enforce its noise control ordinance using other standards which have always been part of the ordinance.

The proposed amendments would formally eliminate subjective standards and help ensure equitable enforcement of noise control standards.

To learn more, visit the County website. Scroll down to Item No. 23 on the Agenda for the October 23 Recessed County Board Meeting. The staff report includes the proposed changes to the current ordinance.

Arlington Va., is a world-class residential, business and tourist location that was originally part of the “10 miles square” parcel of land surveyed in 1791 to be the Nation's Capital. Slightly smaller than 26 square miles, it is the geographically smallest self-governing county in the United States, and one of only a handful with the prized Aaa/AAA/AAA bond rating. Arlington maintains a rich variety of stable neighborhoods and quality schools, and has received numerous awards for Smart Growth and transit-oriented development. Home to some of the most influential organizations in the world — including the Pentagon — Arlington stands out as one of America's preeminent places to live, visit and do business.