Neighborhood College participant aims to address community noise problem: Update
*Update (June 29, 2022): While Bryan Jacobs graduated in early June along with his Mount Vernon District Neighborhood College classmates, he is still actively working to resolve the community noise issue and has recently seen some progress.
Jacobs and other community members submitted or held testimony at a June 28 Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (BoS) public hearing to consider amendments to the county code to address the vehicle noise problem. As a result, the BoS adopted changes to the code, enabling the county to more effectively enforce offenses related to loud exhaust systems. According to a June 28 statement by BoS Chair Jeff McKay:
"Now, no person is permitted to operate a vehicle that is equipped with an exhaust system not in proper working order or [that] produces excessive or unusual levels of noise."
Noting that enforcement will be difficult, McKay said the county will continue to press the Commonwealth of Virginia to adopt additional measures like muffler inspection requirements during annual vehicle inspections.
Jacobs plans to help with the push at the state level.
"I believe it’s imperative given the lack of resources in law enforcement to cover the number of loud vehicles that have proliferated over the past several years," he said. "It’s all about enforcement. None of this matters without the many law enforcement jurisdictions (Fairfax County Police Department, National Park Service, Alexandria Police Department, and both Virginia and Maryland Highway Patrol) being committed to enforcing the law."
Like the other 40 community members participating in Mount Vernon District Neighborhood College — a free, eight-session virtual certificate program run by the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services — Bryan Jacobs is doing a “practicum” and preparing a presentation on a problem he wants to tackle in his neighborhood.
Jacobs, who serves as president of the Belle Haven Citizens Association, has been concerned the last few years with the amount of noise generated by vehicles with high horsepower and modified exhaust systems. His home’s proximity to major roadways like Richmond Highway and Fort Hunt Road means a constant drone at all times of day and night.
“This is a community problem now,” said Jacobs, noting that the noise affects quality of life for many families in his neighborhood. “With more people staying home, it has become almost unbearable.”
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Part of the challenge, he said, is that many jurisdictions are involved, so laws in one county or state may not be enforceable in others, and Fairfax County doesn’t have a noise ordinance for vehicles because it doesn’t have jurisdiction over road right of way. Also, while the Commonwealth of Virginia recently made violation of the vehicle noise statute a primary offense again, law enforcement can’t pull over offenders unless they personally witness the violation.
Using information gained from his weekly Neighborhood College classes, which include guest speakers from various county organizations, Jacobs is engaging with community stakeholders and trying to build consensus for a “Quiet Community” program that will increase enforcement of noise laws and ordinances. Upon gathering input from county law enforcement, Jacobs plans to meet with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to discuss model anti-noise pollution projects from around the nation that could serve as a starting point for adoption. Then he plans to approach the state legislature with requests for better enforcement and for legislation prohibiting the purchase of modified exhaust systems in Virginia.
On June 9, the last day of class, Jacobs will present his overall project to his Neighborhood College classmates. Together, they will be the first Mount Vernon District graduates from the program, which is sponsored by Supervisor Dan Storck. Upon earning his certificate, Jacobs’ civic engagement activities will just be getting started.
“Loud cars with modified mufflers have become a scourge in our communities,” said Jacobs. “I’m going to do everything possible to ban them from our streets.”
The April 21 kick-off class for the Mount Vernon District Neighborhood College program can be viewed online.