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Morning Poll: Which of these noise complaints has the most merit?

One inevitability of running a local news outlet is that you’ll get plenty of people contacting you with complaints about stuff, some more newsworthy than others.

In general, we’re disinclined to use our limited reporting resources as a cudgel against pet peeves that lack greater significance or safety concerns to the community at large. More often, the better stories tend to be those that come from tips sent because something seems interesting, not because it bothers the tipster personally.

Recently, though, there has been a noticeable uptick in a certain type of tip: those complaining about noise.

Noise is a constant concern in a place like Arlington, which has no shortage of noisy things from airliners to helicopters, bars to buses.

Noise complaints abound in our 26 square miles, but those that have a more limited local impact and fall into a category that might be described as “annoying but to be expected where you live” often do not rise to the level of local coverage.

Arguably, the following three noise complaints could get that categorization. But after receiving each in notably short succession, we’re going to let readers decide which, if any, has the most merit and might deserve additional scrutiny.

First up: (1) the use of leaf blowers in Ballston when there are, in fact, few if any leaves on the ground.

You folks should do a story on excess use of gas powered leaf blowers in [Ballston]. I live off Welburn Square, and when I work at home I hear pairs of workers with leaf blowers frequently, like every few days. This happens literally year round, every month,–80% of the time there are no leaves!

Are these county workers? It seems like a waste of taxpayer money plus unneeded air pollution and sound pollution.

I’ve attached a photo from this morning. No leaves!! Yet two guys with gas powered blowers wailing.


Welburn Square apartment resident.

Next: (2) nightly runway closures at DCA steering late flights closer to residential towers in nearby Crystal City.

As a longtime resident of Crystal City, my high-rise building, and others on the northern end of Crystal Drive, are directly along the flight path of aircraft currently departing the 15/33 runway that’s being used during the evenings while the main runway is worked on. Since the project started,  aircraft depart that runway perhaps 1000′ from my building regularly during the late evening until nearly 3AM … and then resume a few more times before 6AM when the main runway is cleared for regular daytime traffic. (It’s intolerable for us in Waterford House and Crystal Gateway, but likely is worse for the residents of Crystal City Lofts and Water Park Towers.)

In addition to working professionals, several buildings in this part of Crystal City count many senior citizens as homeowners and/or renters. Taken together, we are all directly – and adversely – impacted being in such immediate proximity to the overwhelming noise of aircraft taking off on 15/33 that pass so close to our buildings during the overnight hours. I think you’d agree that long-term sleep deprivation and the related health consequences – at any age – certainly is not the answer. :(

According to a 2022 airport diagram[1], DCA runway 15/33 is 5200×150′ while 4/22 is 5000×150. Runway 4/22 is another ‘cross’ runway but departs over the Potomac River and does not put departing aircraft so close to residential buildings during their initial climb-out from DCA. Given the nearly identical length of these runways, it would be nice to know why DCA is not able to use that runway instead and therefore prevent disrupting the residents of northern Crystal City.

Finally: (3) the daily playing of the National Anthem at a Navy facility in the Penrose neighborhood, which allegedly “started last fall” and “can be heard from several blocks away, through windows, and is played every day.”

I am writing in about the Naval Support Facility at 701 S Courthouse Rd, Arlington, VA. Several months ago, the facility began playing the National Anthem every morning at 8am.There are speakers pointed directly into the neighborhood. While it may have simply been an oversight, I wanted to bring Arlington County’s noise ordinances to your attention.

According to Arlington County, the Naval Support Facility is located in Zone S-3A. Arlington’s noise control regulations require that noise for Zone S-3A is below 95 decibels for “impulsive noise” during daytime hours (7am – 9pm weekdays, 10am – 9pm weekends) and below 90 decibels during nighttime hours. Please note they also define impulsive noise as lasting less than 1 second [Noise Ordinance, page 2]. All other noise needs to remain below 60 decibels during daytime hours and 55 decibels during nighttime hours. The Naval Support Facility plays the National Anthem at an audio level far beyond the permissible levels.

Additionally, I would like to bring your attention to the prohibited acts in the Arlington County noise ordinance. [Noise Ordinance, page 6]. I live approximately 600 feet from the Naval Support Facility, and the noise is extremely loud, even with the windows closed. This is a direct, clear violation of Arlington County’s noise ordinances.

“My neighbor has tried bringing this to Arlington County, but they won’t preemptively come out to the facility to witness the noise, so they won’t enforce their own rules,” the anthem tipster told ARLnow.

Which of the above complaints do you think has the most merit?

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