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Arlington County Updates Noise Ordinance; Penalties for Repeaters

Top complaints from community include loud parties or gatherings, construction noise, animal noise and live entertainment venues.

Arlington County Updates Noise Ordinance; Penalties for Repeaters

The Arlington County Board approved substantial updates to the County’s Noise Control Ordinance over the weekend, voting 4 to 0 to approve the Updated Noise Ordinance, according to a news released from the county.

“These updates mark a big step forward in our attempts to balance our lively urban neighborhoods with the community annoyances that sometimes accompany them,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. “It’s important that we consider the needs of all Arlingtonians – long-time residents, as well as new arrivals – who live and work in our community.

The updates include:
  • New measurement standards to determine above-grade noise violations, including motor vehicle noise and sound-reading collections at high-rise locations and multi-unit buildings.
  • Clarity on allowed noise exemptions during emergencies, including use of generators, repairs and public utility work.
  • Enhanced prohibited acts to address issues such as loud music, nighttime gatherings in residential districts, idling commercial vehicles, use of lawn and garden maintenance equipment and animal noises.
  • New definitions for legal holidays, mixed-use districts, motorcycles, motor vehicles and multi-unit structures

Equitable Enforcement of Noise Control Standards

The updates to the ordinance introduce civil penalties, as well as increased criminal penalties and a civil appeal process:

  • Civil penalties on violators after a warning is issued or posted on the premises.
  • Criminal penalties for violations have increased from $25 to not less than $100 or more than $2,500 upon conviction.
  • Civil appeal processes that keep a civil citation in full force and effect pending the final outcome of a contested citation.
  • Code Enforcement investigates complaints during regular business hours.
  • Police officers investigate complaints during nighttime and on weekends or holidays (and always with motor vehicles).

Working collaboratively with the community on solutions

In the past year, the County invited residents, business owners, contractors, community leaders and other stakeholders to weigh in on the proposed recommendations to update the Noise Ordinance.

County staff worked with the  Civic Federation, Altavista/Berkeley Ad Hoc Committee of Concerned Homeowners, Clarendon Alliance, Northern Building Industry Association, National Association of Industrial and Office Parks, and other community and business stakeholders to craft standards to objectively define a noise disturbance related to top complaints including loud parties or gatherings, construction noise, animal noise and live entertainment venues.


The ordinance includes what the county calls "the best enforceable standards for Arlington," including streamlined and clarified language, definitions and noise disturbance measurements, and, for the first time, civil penalties for repeat violators.

Arlington County adopted the previous version of the Noise Control Ordinance on January 1, 1975, when the County had approximately 163,441 residents. Since then, the  County’s population has increased about 31 percent and estimated at 215,000. Many more County residents are now living in multifamily high-rise residential buildings, the county noted.

To read the staff report, visit the  County website. Scroll down to  Item #31 on the  May 10, 2014 Agenda Regular County Board Meeting.

Learn more with these  frequently asked questions.

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