Arlington County residents who play their stereos too loud may soon face an increase in fines from $25 to a maximum of $2,500 after the state's highest court shot down the so-called reasonable person standard previously used to define noise-related complaints.
As a result, officials are now rewriting the county's 37-year-old noise ordinance and proposing increased fines and the possibility of jail time for violators.
Should the County Board approve the new regulations next month, the operators of predawn pile drivers and loud vehicles and owners of barking pets will all be subject to fines that have increased from the price of two pizzas to that of a fully loaded MacBook Pro.
"In this proposal, staff has done a good job of crafting potential solutions to the noise challenges we face as an increasingly urban community," said County Board Chairwoman Mary Hynes.
According to county records, loud parties or gatherings, construction noise, animal noise and live entertainment venues are the top four noise-related complaints filed by residents. Those found to be in violation of the current ordinance are either warned or fined $25.
But if the new ordinance passes, the owners of dogs that bark once every minute for 10 minutes and disturb neighbors will be in violation of it and could be fined thousands of dollars, as are residents who play music or listen to their TVs so loudly that someone at least 20 feet away can hear them.
"I know that there have been some issues [with violations] in our neighborhood," said Stacey Whyte, president of the Arlington Heights Civic Association. "We're encouraging residents, especially those whose houses border businesses along [Columbia] Pike, to offer their feedback to the county."
The new noise standards are expected to increase the work hours of code enforcement and police officials as the changes are ushered in.
The county will host a pair of meetings this week to address the proposed changes, the first on Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. in the Navy League Building (2300 Wilson Blvd.) and the second on Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Shirlington Library (4200 Campbell St.).