HARRISONBURG — City Council approved amending noise violations in Harrisonburg to exempt non-road-related construction noise to the daytime hours only, and the new rules took effect immediately.
Council first voted on the matter at its Aug. 27 meeting but had to vote a second time before the item could go into action.
Voting in favor was Mayor Deanna Reed, Councilmen Richard Baugh, George Hirschmann, Sal Romero and Chris Jones.
The city has a daytime noise maximum of 65 decibels from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m and a 55 decibels maximum for nighttime from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Exemptions to the ordinance are now:
1. School-sponsored activities on school grounds.
2. Officially sanctioned activities in city parks.
3. Bells and carillons.
4. Public and private transportation, refuse collection and sanitation services.
5. Anything permitted by a special-use permit issued by the city.
6. Construction on real property and road construction/maintenance.
Real property refers to immovable properties, such as homes or buildings.
Melody Barger, a graduate intern from James Madison University who worked in the city manager’s office over the summer, presented her findings on what other surrounding localities’ noise maximums are for the daytime and nighttime hours.
Barger looked into noise ordinances in surrounding localities because city resident Zack Germroth voiced concerns to city staff on the potential change, according to Director of Communications Michael Parks.
Barger compared Harrisonburg to Charlottesville, which has a noise maximum of 65 decibels for the daytime from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Winchester, which has a night noise maximum of 60 decibels at the property line from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Lynchburg has a 57 decibels day noise maximum restriction from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and a 52 decibels night noise maximum from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Richmond has no specific noise ordinance.
In a “Letters To The Editor” published in the Daily News-Record on Tuesday, Germroth said other examples in Virginia, such as Fairfax, Blacksburg, Portsmouth and Staunton, have more reasonable restricted hours, which were either from 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
“For the residents of Harrisonburg, let’s tap the brakes and look closer at the ordinance’s impact on everyday family life,” Germroth said in the letter. “Let’s support Harrisonburg’s robust construction trades while protecting our existing citizens. Many other cities do.”
Although the council vote was unanimous, Romero said he found it interesting that 10 p.m. is the standard time that all localities had as the end of the daytime.
“As a teacher and as a school employee, we oftentimes tell our students ‘you need to be in bed by 9 because we need you to get up early full of energy the next day,’ and so 10 to me seems to be a little bit later than I would want, but I’m OK with that,” he said.
Jones said he hopes the change will be enforced “because it feels like we haven’t always been able to completely enforce the current noise violations and so just adding to it — just making sure we can completely enforce it.
“If we are going to keep adding to things like this without the proper enforcement, it’s kind of pointless,” he added.