Councilman proposing new noise ordinance

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The city's last noise ordinance was struck down in court as unconstitutional because it singled out religious sounds. This time around, Councilman Charles Samuels is proposing the city rely on a decibel meter to determine if you're being too loud.

"Decimeters seem to be a very objective standard that will be difficult to say is subjective. I mean if it says it on the machine, that's what it is," said Samuels.

The proposed ordinance would allow up to 65 decibels of sound during the day between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. That's about as loud as a vacuum cleaner. That number drops to 55 over night between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Emergency vehicles, school events like football games, marching bands, church bells, and daytime trash collection would be exempt. Pets could get you in trouble too. If your dog barks once a minute for 10 straight minutes you could be cited.

"The important thing about noise in the city is that everybody has their own opinion on it. You want to have something that's an objective standard. So, there's really no question about what's appropriate and what's inappropriate," Samuels said.

Steven Benjamin is the attorney that challenged and won against the city's last noise ordinance. He says this latest version is a good start and 100 percent better than the previous, but he still has concerns.

"If they decibel level is set too low, if it is set so low that it prohibits sound that isn't excessive, everyday normal sound, then that's just as unreasonable as the other ordinance and it leaves it up to the police to dictate to us what sound is acceptable," said Benjamin.

Under the proposal, the first time your cited it would be a class 4 misdemeanor, which is a $250 fine. By the third fine, you could face jail time. Samuels plans to introduce the noise ordinance to council in June.

If you want to see a copy of the proposed noise ordinance or want to comment, click here.

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