The County’s noise ordinance is to acknowledge that certain noises constitute hazards to public health, welfare, peace and safety, and the quality of life of the residents of Fairfax County. Community members have a right to be ensured of an environment free from sounds jeopardizing these prevalent interests, provided that the restrictions are not inconsistent with either Federal or State law.
The noise ordinance accepts certain noises as allowable, prohibits other noises, and where a particular noise is neither specifically prohibited nor excepted, subjects that noise to maximum decibel levels. The ordinance seeks to qualify sources of sound by time, location, and duration limitations and is summarized on the County’s website by sound, applicable exceptions, and maximum decibel reading levels depending upon the source.
Under the current noise ordinance, certain noises are prohibited during nighttime hours or within certain distances from a residential dwelling. These include, but are not limited to the use of loudspeakers, outdoor construction, trash collection, use of power lawn equipment, and outdoor
truck loading/unloading. Additionally, “people” noise is prohibited during nighttime hours, including persons, motor vehicles, or instruments that generate audible and discernible sound in any other person’s residential dwelling with the doors and windows closed. Prohibition times vary based on location, i.e., mixed-use areas versus residential areas as these areas are defined in the noise ordinance, and date, i.e., weekdays and Federal holidays.
As it specifically pertains to animal-generated noises (excluding dogs, cats, birds, other pets), these sounds are prohibited between the hours of 10pm and 7am, or between 7am and 10pm when the sound can be heard for more than five consecutive or nonconsecutive minutes in
a ten-minute time period with limited exceptions.
Certain noises are not subject to the ordinance, including but not limited to, motor vehicles traveling on a right-of-way, power equipment used for snow and ice removal, emergency work, heat pumps/air conditioners operating in accordance with manufacturer specifications on single family dwelling lots, and any activity specifically preempted by state or federal law. Certain daytime noises are exempted from the ordinance, including but not limited to, the operation of power lawn equipment, trash collection, activities on recreational grounds (excluding loudspeakers), bells, carillons, and other calls to worship with a frequency limitation.
Noise Ordinance Waivers
The Director of Planning and Development who delegates authority to the Zoning Administrator may waive any provision of the noise ordinance upon determining that a noise does not endanger the public health, safety, or welfare, or that compliance with the noise ordinance
would produce a serious hardship without providing equal or greater benefit to the public. Waivers may be granted for up to one year, with the potential to renew, and appeals can be made to the County Executive within 30 days of a decision.
Noise Ordinance Administration and Enforcement
Noise ordinance violations can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or civil penalty or via injunctive relief sought by the Board of Supervisors. The FCPD may only prosecute noise violations as a misdemeanor, and typically conducts enforcement of the ordinance during those non-business hours where DCC agents would not otherwise be working. Additionally, prosecutions of violations may be pursued before a sworn magistrate predicated upon the sworn complaint of at least two persons who are not members of the same household.
Noise complaints are normally made through the County’s website or by calling The Department of Public Safety Communications (DPSC). On the County website, visitors are directed to the Noise Ordinance
Applicability Summary Chart for further guidance on whether noises qualify as a violation and who the responsible County agency is to contact for enforcement.
The root cause of community frustration with the noise ordinance is associated with being informed that the noise in question does not violate anything within the Noise Ordinance Applicability Summary Chart so the Police Department isn’t dispatched or when they are
dispatched and an officer arrives or calls the complainant and states “there is nothing we can do about this.” While officers are correct in that the noise may be permissible, nothing stops them from offering to speak to whomever is responsible for the noise to ask them to reduce/eliminate