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Amendment could allow for exemptions to permissible noise levels
Date published: 9/21/2012
Construction work for HOT lanes along Interstate 95 could be loud for the next two years--louder than Stafford County code allows.
A proposed amendment, however, could let the county administrator grant exemptions to permissible noise levels when there is no concern for public health or safety.
The Stafford Board of Supervisors deferred a vote Tuesday to get more information from county staff about the proposal. It could come back up at the Oct. 2 meeting.
"I'm concerned about an outside contractor coming in and making this appeal to do night work and it may sound like it's a legitimate deal," Snellings said. "And I find out about it after the fact, it's all approved."
Snellings said the board should be able to grant the exemption, not the county administrator.
County Attorney Charles Shumate said the issue could use some study. "This might be another one that cries out for us to take a measured look ," he said. The public hearing remains open.
Previously, exemptions to the noise levels were permitted only in case of emergency. Daytime noise by residential districts is limited to 65 decibels, and night-time noise at 55 decibels.
But Fluor-Lane 95 LLC, the design-build firm constructing the High Occupancy Toll Lane project with VDOT on the I-95 corridor, requested a waiver. Construction noise could exceed 80 decibels, Fluor-Lane 95 told the county.
But it appears the county doesn't have the power to regulate noise in this case.
A letter from an assistant Virginia attorney general said that VDOT contractors do not have to comply with local noise ordinances. That means the proposed amendment is not necessary for the HOT lanes project.
The express lanes, expected to be up and running by the end of 2014, are touted as a way to ease rush-hour congestion and spark the economy.
The lanes, part of a nearly $1 billion project, will be integrated into the HOV-lane system used by vehicles carrying at least three people. Work began last month. The express lanes to be built in the I-95 median will carry variable electronic tolls adjusted according to the traffic flow. Cars with at least three people, motorcycles, buses and van pools will be able to use the lanes for free.
The board's infrastructure committee said it seemed impractical to not allow exemptions for projects that are "of significant public interest." Nearby jurisdictions allow for exemptions, according to Stafford documents.
"It could potentially be for a development project but they'd have to show the public benefit to this project and that [the noise ordinance is] a hardship for them," Planning Director Jeff Harvey said.
Under the amendment, any person causing noise would have to apply to the county administrator or his designee for an exemption.
Issues to consider would be the time of day, duration of noise, loudness of noise, whether it's intermittent or continuous, and any other factor that may be related to the health, safety and welfare of the community.
Exemptions are not needed in the case of an emergency situation or emergency work.
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975