Williamsburg City Council approves amendment to noise ordinance
The Williamsburg City Council passed an amendment to the noise ordinance, known as Ordinance 12-14, during the July 12 meeting and posted the amendment July 19.
Ordinance 12-14 seeks to control noise on public streets and sidewalks but recognizes that the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Articles 12 and 16 of the Virginia Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and religion, according to the ordinance document. This amendment sets down times and situations in which loud noise is allowed. For example, the document shows that certain functions that result in high noise levels, such as events in the Colonial Williamsburg and the Merchants Square areas, may continue, but special permits must be obtained from the city.
The amendment states that between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., Monday through Sunday, sounds cannot exceed a volume of 75 decibels “at a distance greater than 10 feet from the place at which the sound is being generated or produced, for an aggregate duration of time greater than 60 seconds in any one-hour period.” The amendment also defines 75 decibels as a sound that is audible to a person with normal hearing at a distance greater than 50 feet from where the sound is produced.
In the second section of the amendment, the ordinance states that between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., no sound generation shall be louder 65 decibels. This sound level cannot be generated for longer than 60 seconds, the amendment states. The amendment then defines 65 decibels as any sound that is audible to a person of normal hearing at a distance greater than 50 feet from the place of origin.
There are exceptions, though. Those exceptions are:
- Military activities related to the Commonwealth of Virginia or of the U.S.
- Public speaking and public assembly activities conducted on any public right-of-way or public property except those conducted in Colonial Williamsburg Historic or Merchants Square areas.
- Religious services, events or activities and related sounds, including music, singing, bells, chimes and organs, except those in Colonial Williamsburg Historic or Merchants Square areas
- Military activities of the Commonwealth of Virginia or of the U.S.
- Activities on or in municipal, county, state, federal, or school athletic facilities, or on or in publicly owned property and facilities.
- Sounds from emergency response vehicles, such as those from radios, sirens, horns, and bells.
- Parades, fireworks displays, school-related activities and other public special events or activities.
- Fire alarms and burglar alarms.
- Items related to the health, safety, life or limb of any person, including sound generated by the normal operation of any air conditioning, refrigeration or heating equipment.
- Locomotives and other railroad equipment, and aircraft.
- Household tools and lawn mowers and other lawn care equipment with manufacturer's recommended mufflers installed, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
- Lawful discharge of firearms.
To view a detailed copy of the noise ordinance amendments, visit: http://www.williamsburgva.gov.
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