City Council to look at new noise ordinance

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – It's back to the drawing board for Richmond City Council after a judge declared the city's noise ordinance unconstitutional and sided with the local band ticketed for violating the law.

Right now, the city doesn't have an enforceable noise ordinance.  City Council members said with such a contentious issue, they need to craft new language sooner rather than later.  One said a new paper could be introduced as soon as next month.

A court victory for some now leads to more work for others.  A judge sided with the band Little Master, whose members were ticketed for playing music that could be heard 50ft away after 11o'clock at night.  Now lawmakers like Bruce Tyler have to go back to work again.  This isn't the first time a noise ordinance has been challenged here.  This new law came about when a previous version was deemed too vague.

"Each time you take a step forward we learn more and more and gives us an opportunity to work with more information and eventually we get all the information put in the right place and get the right thing," said Councilman Tyler.

Members of the band told NBC12 they hope the city can come up with something that protects everyone's rights and also doesn't pit neighbor against neighbor.

The judge ruled the ordinance was too specific and made most noises criminal.  Legal analyst Todd Stone said it's a delicate balance.

"Noise is something that is inherently hard to quantify to say that this noise is bad, that this noise is good, it's a hard thing to quantify," he explained.

The city has ten days to appeal to the circuit court. Stone said it could once again look to other localities for guidance.

"If these things have passed muster in other places then maybe they're more secure than this sort of an ordinance," said Stone.

Richmond Police told us they've written 125 tickets to people violating the ordinance.  Stone thinks after Tuesday's decision, it might be a good idea for those people to call their lawyers and see if they can take their charges back to court.

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