Public Hearing to be held next week on Hanover noise ordinance

By Sunni Blevins - bio | email

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - Noise ordinances have become a hot button issue in a lot of localities recently. Last year, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that Virginia Beach's ordinance was unconstitutionally vague.  Hanover County used similar language and now must revise it.

"By far the most common complaint that we receive is animal noises and typically it's barking dogs, and it typically occurs when a dog is barking for a very long period of time, especially in the middle of the night," said Hanover County Attorney Sterling Rives.

When it came to animal noises, the 30-year-old ordinance used words like frequently and habitually, which county leaders decided weren't specific enough.

"Now the rule will be that if an animal makes noise that can be clearly heard across a property line for a period of 10 minutes at night and 15 minutes during the day, that would constitute a violation that's similar to the standards already adopted by Chesterfield and Henrico," said Rives.

Commercial kennels or animal rescue organizations like BARK will be governed by their special exception permits allowing for more than 50 dogs, rather than the noise ordinance.

Now after 9 months of hard work, a public hearing and two workshops, the county is closing in on a revised noise ordinance.

Another new aspect involves adopting a General Assembly ruling allowing localities to issue civil penalties for noise violations. People will be given an opportunity to correct issues before the county takes action, but if it comes to that, a person could face up to $250 per violation.

"We think that civil penalties in lieu of criminal penalties, is a more appropriate way to enforce noise ordinances. Where after all, our real goal is to maintain compliance with the ordinance rather than punish the person making the noise," said Rives.

The public will have an opportunity to comment on this issue at the Board of Supervisors meeting next Wednesday. The public hearing portion starts at 7 p.m.

(c) 2010. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.