Leesburg Town Council during its Tuesday meeting initiated amendments to the town’s noise ordinance — Town Code § 24-182 — after hearing concerns from several residents.
During the meeting’s petitioners section, attendees were permitted to approach the dais to share their issues with the ordinance, which was last amended in 2009 and prohibits the use of sound amplification equipment before 10:30 a.m. and after 8 p.m. Five residents spoke, including Loudoun County Treasurer H. Roger Zurn, Jr., (R) who noted the recent resurgence in downtown nightlife and its draw to residents and visitors alike.
“I heard a couple of younger people … say that ‘Leesburg has become cool again.’ And you know, that kind of defines exactly what you should desire -- is getting that vibe back in terms of people wanting to come down here, spend money and be part of this community ... as well as affording residents the opportunity to go out and listen to music, dance and really have some fun,” Zurn said. “I’ll be shocked if anybody thinks eight o’clock on a Friday or Saturday is totally justified — it’s not.”
Jill Weiss, a town resident for more than 20 years, said she has never seen nightlife in the town so vibrant and that keeping the noise ordinance as is would hinder further progress. She also pointed out various inequities the ordinance brings about. Weiss said sounds caused by fireworks, loud equipment such as chainsaws and construction are permitted to continue until 10 p.m. all nights of the week.
“These noises are permissible for two hours after the bands have to stop playing. That doesn’t make sense to me. I think most people would probably prefer to listen to live music for two hours than a jackhammer, but that’s my opinion,” Weiss said.
Weiss added that noise produced by athletic events, such as high school football games, is often far greater than that produced by equipment used to amplify music, yet is not required to cease at 8 p.m.
“When I walk away from a restaurant or a bar that’s playing music, I go a couple of blocks and I can’t hear the music anymore. But if there’s a football game at Tuscarora High School, I can hear it from my house, and my house is a mile away from the school. And when I say I can hear it from my house, I mean I can hear it from inside my house — if there’s a touchdown, I can hear that call being announced inside my house a mile away,” she said.
Weiss and Zurn concurred that 10 p.m. is a more reasonable and equitable time limit for sound amplification in the town, as did resident Linda Ifert. Still, Ifert, who lives next to MacDowell Brew Kitchen on Harrison Street — a common venue for live music and a social scene — expressed concerns with whether and how the volume of such events will be monitored and limited.
“I think being a balance between residents and businesses, we all need to be fair and courteous to one another, and I think it’s part of finding the right equipment. Someone has to monitor that level if it’s too loud,” Ifert said.
“I think the restaurants do need some help from you guys in that they can have a criteria, and say, ‘Look, we’re under 75 decibels at 50 feet,’ or something like that, so they can at least know if there is a problem,” professional musician and longtime Leesburg Historic District resident Tim Rumfelt suggested.
Council voted 6-0-1 to initiate amendments to the ordinance as part of the meeting’s consent agenda, with Councilman Joshua Thiel absent. Council will hold a public hearing in regard to the ordinance as the next step to amending.
Members of council didn't discuss the ordinance at length during Tuesday's meeting. They're expected to do so at a future meeting.