Chamber Insider Blog

Brian’s Corner: The Cone of Silence

“Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!
That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!”
– How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The Cone of Silence

Post by Government Affairs Manager, Brian Fauls


I freely admit it, I’m a Grinch when it comes to noise.  I’m the guy pounding on the college dorm room wall or apartment ceiling trying to encourage the annoying Who next door to turn the stereo down.  It never worked and eventually I decided that sleep was highly overrated and ended up joining the nightly revelry – the alleged presence of beer and cute girls might also have played a small part but I can neither confirm nor deny that.

My point is that I GET complaints about noise.  But I also get that the annoyance factor with noise is highly subjective.  The hum of cooling equipment might fade into the background for me but it might drive someone else stark raving mad.  

Same noise; same volume, same tonal qualities, same time of the day and atmospherics, same everything, but two very reasonable people can experience two very different results from the same noise.  It happens.

Generally, “Noise Ordinances” are designed to regulate the impact of excessive, unnecessary or especially loud noises that are typically unusual or unnatural in their time and place.  This makes sense.  This system works when it is properly enforced.  As with any law or regulation, whether it be federal, state or local, if it’s not properly enforced things go awry. 

Things have started to go awry here in Loudoun County.  No one can deny that our county has experiences explosive growth in the last 10-15 years.  That growth, particularly in the eastern half of the county has seen residential and commercial properties pushed every closer together and, consequently, a ramping up of noise complaints.  In response to the increasing complaints about noise, the County government is considering tightening the noise standards in the county. 

I’m a little cynical about government.  I’m pretty sure after years of firsthand experience inside the federal government that half the laws government passes are designed to fix problems created by the other half of the laws government passes.   And very often the problem laws are an overreaction to someone down the line not properly enforcing some earlier law. 

I’m starting to think the proposed noise ordinance is an overreaction law.  For example, the old ordinance starts off “It shall be unlawful for any person to operate or permit to be operated any stationary noise source in such a manner as to create a sound level that exceeds,” blah, blah, blah.  Boring reading but pretty neutral in its application. 

However, the new proposed ordinance starts off very differently.  It reads, “[T]he purpose of these standards is to protect residential properties from excessive sound (noise).”  That doesn’t seem to me to be a very neutral statement.  In fact, to me, the implication is clear, the new ordinance is intended to protect residents from evil businesses.   That’s a pretty surprising stance for a County Government that touts itself as being business friendly and is desperately trying to expand its commercial tax base. 

News flash, Loudoun County, every business owner is not secretly Lord Business.  Imposing a Cone of Silence on Loudoun’s business community is not the way to attract and retain quality businesses and jobs to our community.  It is also not the way to create the vibrant urbanized night life and entertainment spaces we need in this county to attract the millennial workforce. 

Businesses do need to be good neighbors; and the vast majority of business owners and operators get that.  But government shouldn’t punish every business owner because of a few bad actors.  

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