After two years and countless hours of work by county residents and local officials alike, Goochland County now has a new tool to help fight the kind of nuisance noise some say poses a significant threat to residents’ quality of life.
On May 4, the Goochland County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an amendment to the County Code to include a provision against nuisance noise, a move that could help residents who have complained for years that they have had little to no recourse in dealing with everything from loud music to neighbors intent on riding ATVs regardless at all hours of the day and night.
Although board members stopped short of banning any form of lawful shooting, and one key sticking point in approving the measure was making sure not to infringe on residents’ Second Amendment rights or impede local law enforcement officers from maintaining shooting proficiency.
Agricultural and commercial noise are also exempt from the ordinance, which covers only property on which a residence is located.
According to Goochland County Attorney Tara McGee, who worked closely with the Citizens Committee formed by the county in 2019 to address the issue, the noise covered by the new ordinance must occur repeatedly.
A written warning must also be sent to violators via certified mail.
The new ordinance reads, in part, “It is a violation of this article for any person to intentionally or unintentionally make repetitive noise, or allow the making of repetitive noise … on residential property that, by reason of its volume, pitch, duration, repetition, and time of day, unreasonably and substantially disturbs or interferes with someone else’s peaceful enjoyment of residential property they own, rent, or occupy.”
Essentially, the committee “designed the whole ordinance to protect the peaceful enjoyment of residents’ homes,” McGee explained. “That’s what their goal was.”
The board members were especially appreciative of the 12-member committee that came together to craft the ordinance. Members volunteered their time to study data including local noise complaints from the past 10 years.
Members of the committee included Kara Beville, Mary Day, Thomas Ford, Peter Lenk, Joe Ligon, Eric McKay, Patrick Murtaugh, Catherine O’Brien, Rose Sompayrac, Richard Willis, David Winchester and Eric Yim.
As they examined the issue of nuisance noise, committee members were presented with a flood of personal accounts from residents who said they have been negatively impacted by noise, including one man who shared that the noise from his neighbor’s go-karting activity has caused such a disruption to his life that it is now impacting his health.
There were also, however, a number of residents who opposed any formal policy controlling noise, preferring that the matter be handled without getting law enforcement or the courts involved.
Several speakers during the May 4 meeting, including former County Supervisor Manuel Alvarez, urged the board members to defer action on the ordinance until they could study it further and make more people aware of the proposed changes.
To board of supervisors chairman John Lumpkins, however, the time was right to approve the measure — albeit with caution.
“Let’s take the step, let’s be careful, and let’s be prepared to see how it works, “ Lumpkins said. “We need to really monitor it and make sure we get a report and get feedback on the complaints that are coming to the Sheriff’s Office.”
For the full text of the new ordinance, as well as research compiled by the Citizens Committee, visit https://www.goochlandva.us/1050/Noise-Committee.