More local legislators are pushing back against a federal proposal to allow more long-distance flights at National Airport (DCA).
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously yesterday (Tuesday) to oppose the push to increase the number of flights that travel beyond 1,250 miles from the airport in Arlington.
In a letter to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, the board argued that the effort would undermine Dulles International Airport (IAD), resulting in “detrimental” impacts on the local economy.
The legislation pushed by the Capital Access Alliance, a coalition of business groups, continues a long-running battle over slot and perimeter rules originally enacted in the 1960s.
The board argues that changes would disrupt the balance between the region’s two major airports and compromise the operating environment for air traffic. The letter also says flight paths for arrivals and departures to the south of DCA have caused major noise issues over residential areas in the county following the implementation of a federal Next Generation Air Transportation System, also known as NextGen.
Board Chairman Jeff McKay emphasized that the issue resolves around public safety. He said that many airline pilots that fly out of DCA say that is one of the “most dangerous” airports to fly in and out of because its designed for specifically-sized airports in the landing area.
“This is not just wrong to impose these changes without a lot of public input, it’s not just wrong for parochial reasons, but it’s wrong to do it in the name of public safety as well, and I think that’s one of the things that’s important for us to emphasize,” McKay said.
Proposing to allow 28 more long-distance flights out of DCA, the bill was introduced on May 10 by Reps. Burgess Owens and Hank Johnson, who represent Utah and Georgia, respectively. It has already faced opposition from Virginia’s senators, a community group looking at the airport’s noise issues, and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which manages both DCA and IAD.
Congress is expected to consider the proposal this fall.
Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck and Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said the issue of airport noise is particularly problematic.
“Mason District is not on a direct path of the airplanes for National, but we are getting increasing numbers of complaints about airplane noise and helicopter noise. So, I’m glad that we’re stepping up and doing this,” Gross said.
Storck said he hopes other efforts can be undertaken to tackle airplane noise, especially in his district. He noted that County Executive Bryan Hill is working with Alexandria and Arlington officials to enlist a consultant that will study ways to mitigate noise impacts.
The county says that maintaining existing perimeter and slot rules is necessary in order to spur growth at Dulles, which is supported by the arrival of Metro’s $6 billion Silver Line extension.
“The interconnectedness of Virgnia’s and the mid-Atlantic’s aviation system makes the continued success of both airports vital to both the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Washington Metropolitan Region,” the letter states. “As such, we request your support in preventing further efforts to modify the perimeter and slot rules to protect the balance between the capacities of our region’s airports.”
Getting court time at Glyndon Park in Vienna may be tougher going forward for pickleball players.
In the hopes of alleviating noise complaints from nearby residents, the Vienna Town Council approved a significant reduction in playing time for the increasingly popular sport at the 11-acre park’s four courts during its Monday (Jan. 23) meeting.
However, the new schedule represents less of a reduction in days than initially proposed, allowing pickleball on four days per week instead of just three. It also eliminates shared playing times between tennis and pickleball, so hours designated for pickleball will be exclusively reserved for that sport.
“I see this as a long-term issue,” said Councilmember Chuck Anderson, who proposed the adopted schedule. “I think we all on council agree on that, that what we need to do is roll up our sleeves and take a look at capacity. This is a rapidly growing game. It’s very popular, but it also has a noise issue, and it’s something I think we need to work on and manage.
Pickleball is now limited at the park to the following hours:
Dec. 1 to the end of February
- 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday
- 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday
March 1 through Nov. 30
- 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday
- 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday
Outside of those hours, only tennis will be allowed. The courts close at 10 p.m.
As part of the approved motion, the council also directed the Department of Parks and Recreation to post signage at the park recommending that pickleball players use “quiet” paddles that supposedly make less noise.
Prior to Monday’s 5-2 vote, pickleball and tennis were both permitted at Glyndon Park (300 Glyndon Street NE) seven days a week, but they alternated during open-play hours on Monday through Thursday mornings — a schedule confusing enough that the town council spent several minutes of a Jan. 23 conference session on the proposed changes trying to get clarification.
Anderson said he had considered continuing some shared usage of the courts as part of his proposal but ultimately decided it would be too complicated. He also found that the suggestion didn’t appeal to either pickleball players or the residents who raised the noise issues.
“If you start sharing [on pickleball days], you have to do it the other way too,” he said. “On a tennis day, if the tennis courts aren’t being used and a pickleball player shows up, it would be used, and I just don’t think that’s workable.”
Since Vienna added pickleball lines to Glyndon Park’s two tennis courts in 2020, some residents have complained that the noise made by paddles hitting the plastic balls is “unbearable,” an issue that has cropped up across the country.
Town staff reduced open-play hours and introduced a reservation system for afternoons, but complaints persisted, with some residents calling for pickleball to be banned from the park altogether, Parks and Rec Director Leslie Herman told the council.
After talking with staff, the residents agreed limiting pickleball to Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays would be acceptable, leading Mayor Linda Colbert and Councilmember Ed Somers to object to the addition of a fourth day.
“I’m just concerned about adding a fourth day at this point. I might get there eventually if more people use the soft paddles, if the noise is reduced, if things change, I could get there very easily, but I’m not there right now,” Somers said to a smattering of claps from the audience.
Anderson and other supporters of the four-day schedule said it would give players more flexibility, while starting play later and ending it earlier.
“There’s just a one-hour difference, and it gives people more peace in the mornings and evenings,” Councilmember Nisha Patel noted.
The nationwide face-off between pickleball enthusiasts and homeowners has arrived in the Town of Vienna.
In the hopes of quieting resident noise complaints, the town council is set to vote on Monday (Jan. 30) to reduce pickleball play to three days per week at the courts in Glyndon Park (300 Glyndon Street NE).
Currently available seven days a week, the four pickleball courts would open Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays under the proposal from the Vienna Parks and Recreation Department. The hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays would remain the same, but on Saturdays, they would end at 5 p.m.
Town staff recommended an 8 a.m. start time for Saturday, but at a conference session on Jan. 23 that saw some tense back-and-forth exchanges on both the dais and from the audience, a few council members suggested considering 9 a.m. instead, since kids might want to sleep in on the weekend.
“I don’t know that anybody is a hundred percent thrilled with this, but it is in my mind a compromise, and it’s something we can do right now,” Mayor Linda Colbert said.
Glyndon Park’s pickleball courts were welcomed with gusto by local players — including the mayor, who also partakes in tennis — when they opened in October 2020. With aid from the Vienna Pickleball Club, which paid for some of the equipment, the town added pickleball markings to the two existing tennis courts as part of a planned refurbishment.
However, players have run afoul of some nearby residents, who describe the sound of paddles hitting the plastic balls as “unbearable, loud and constant,” according to one comment in an October survey conducted by the parks department.
“The noise is unbearable,” wrote a resident of Jean Place NE, which is across the street from the courts. “The constant popping 12 hours a day 7 days a week is borderline torture. We cannot use our outdoor space anymore due to pickleball and cannot open our windows.”
The survey went to 34 households and received 17 responses, including seven from people who reported having no issues with pickleball. Parking and traffic complaints also came up, but Parks Director Leslie Herman said those “have been taken care of” with signage directing players to an overflow parking lot by the baseball diamonds.
Vienna isn’t alone in seeing clashes between homeowners and pickleball players. As the sport has grown in popularity over the past decade, so have the noise complaints, leading some communities to close courts and others to be taken to court — including in nearby Arlington County.
The sound level for pickleball is anywhere from 57 to 79 decibels, depending on proximity and the type of equipment used. That’s 25 decibels higher than a tennis racket hitting a ball, according to the Los Angeles Times.
People talking can also contribute to the noise levels, Councilmember Ray Brill said, recalling a visit to Glyndon Park where he saw dozens of people at the courts who weren’t playing.
“I love exercising, and I love playing sports outdoors, but we have neighbors we have to be considerate of,” Brill said. “There’s no shortcuts, so we have to compromise. We have to allow people to play, but they have to take steps to reduce the noise.” Read More
Pickleball has evidently become a hot nighttime activity in the Town of Vienna.
Vienna police have issued six noise violations this year for players hitting the courts at Glyndon Park (300 Glyndon Street) after hours, according to the department.
The most recent issues were reported on Aug. 20 and 24, per the Vienna Police Department’s crime highlights for the week of Aug. 19-25:
Noise Violation 22-008587
300 Glyndon Street, NE
August 20 9:39 p.m.
A resident reported that people were playing pickleball on the tennis courts. The officer advised the people playing pickleball of the Park regulation.
Noise Violation 22-008719
300 Glyndon Street, NE
August 24 8:07 p.m.
A resident reported that people were playing pickleball on the tennis courts. The officer advised the people playing pickleball of the Park regulation that only tennis may be played on the courts after 8:00 p.m.
However, police also responded to noise complaints on Aug. 3 as well as Aug. 7 and 8, according to previous reports.
Four of the six violations involved different people, while two occasions involved the same participants, VPD spokesperson Juan Vazquez told FFXnow.
Glyndon Park’s two tennis courts were renovated so they could also be used as four pickleball courts in fall 2020. However, the park’s rules cut off pickleball play at 8 p.m., whereas tennis can continue until 10 p.m.
Noise has become a source of aggravation for some Vienna residents, whether from construction or outdoor dining, prompting the town council to agree in July to review the noise ordinance for the first time in a decade.
At the urging of some residents and even a Fairfax County School Board member, Vienna is revisiting its noise rules, especially for businesses and other commercial sites.
The town last rewrote its noise ordinance came in 2011, but with sound issues becoming a growing source of tension between residents and businesses, the Vienna Town Council agreed on Monday (July 11) to initiate a new review — with no guarantee that anything will change.
Instead, the council directed staff to research best practices and regulations from other localities to determine whether the town should pursue any updates.
“We are not even at a point that we are suggesting there’s changes,” Mayor Linda Colbert said. “So, we may look at other jurisdictions and decide we like our noise ordinance the way it is…A conference session to review what the [police] chief and town attorney have come up with makes sense.”
Commercial Truck Noises Frustrate Residents
While possibly compounded by increased construction activities and pandemic-related changes, such as more people working from home, noise complaints aren’t a new trend for the Town of Vienna.
A resident of Park Street NE since 2019 told FFXnow that one of his neighbors has spent 20 years battling issues from Mill Street, a commercial strip that backs up to their houses. One business, the now-defunct Bey Lounge, had a live entertainment permit revoked in 2019 after multiple noise ordinance violations stretching back to 2016.
The resident, who asked not to be named out of fear that Vienna’s “small-town politics” could put “a scarlet letter on my name,” says he hears trucks pulling up to the Mill Street businesses every morning, sometimes as early as 3 or 4 a.m.
While he describes himself as a heavy sleeper, his kids reliably wake up whenever the noises begin, and he believes an inability to get a full eight hours of sleep contributed to developmental challenges his son started experiencing in early 2020, before COVID-19 arrived in the U.S.
Since he brought up his concerns to the town council in August 2021, the resident says the Vienna Police Department has done “a fantastic job” enforcing the existing noise rules, but commercial vehicle loading and unloading is allowed within 300 feet of a residence on weekdays except from 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. — a seven-hour stretch. Read More
A change in Virginia law will allow police to once again pull over vehicles with excessively loud exhaust systems, starting tomorrow (Friday).
At a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday (June 28), officials said the change was much needed, citing noisy cars as one of the top complaints they receive from constituents.
“This is a very annoying issue to a high percentage of my district’s residents,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said. “I probably hear about this more than anything else.”
Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation authorizing police to pull over vehicles and issue violations for loud exhaust systems.
Virginia eased rules on exhaust noise levels after the General Assembly passed legislation sponsored by local lawmaker Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) in 2020. Hope and other advocates argued at the time that police were disproportionately pulling over drivers of color for minor infractions, like broken tail lights, tinted windows, and loud exhaust systems.
That law went into effect in March 2021.
However, the change seemed to lead to a rise in noise complaints related to loud exhaust systems in Fairfax County and neighboring jurisdictions.
So, a new bill was created, passed, and signed into law by the governor this year that specifically made exhaust systems “not in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual levels of noise” a primary offense, meaning police can now pull over drivers specifically for that.
Braddock District Supervisor Walkinshaw and Springfield District Supervisor Herrity said they often hear from residents about loud vehicle exhausts. Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said expensive, new exhaust systems with the express purpose of making noise are popular among some in his district.
Even Hope, the sponsor of the original bill, admitted to FFXnow that the 2020 bill had “unintendend consequences,” though he did vote against this session’s legislation.
“This [legislation] was in response to the unintended consequence in the 2021 law of some motorists taking advantage of the law change and installing obnoxiously loud exhaust systems on their vehicles, disturbing families and neighbors,” he wrote. “I heard many complaints from constituents that supported the intent of the law but the unintended consequence was a disturbance of the peace.” Read More
Motorcyclist Dies Falling from I-495 — “An Alexandria motorcyclist was killed Sunday afternoon (June 26) after crashing and falling nearly 30 feet off the westbound Interstate 495 overpass exit ramp for Eisenhower Avenue toward Mill Road…He was transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.” [ALXnow]
System for Helicopter Noise Complaints Unveiled — D.C. area residents finally have a clear place to go to lodge complaints about helicopter-related noise. The site planenoise.com/dcmetro was unveiled yesterday (Monday) as part of a 60-day pilot program that could become permanent. Complaints can also be filed by phone at 877-209-3200 or a mobile app. [Rep. Don Beyer/ARLnow]
Fire Department Shares Fireworks Safety Tips — “The Fourth of July would not be the same without those breathtaking fireworks. However, tragedy can strike within seconds when fireworks are not properly and safely used. Thousands of people are injured each year in the United States due to fireworks. Consider the following safety tips when using permissible fireworks…” [FCFRD]
Fort Belvoir Plans Springfield Expansion — “The U.S. Army is advancing plans to build a big new distribution center at Fort Belvoir as part of a larger planned intelligence campus expansion. The 525,000-square-foot facility, which would house some 600 employees, is proposed for the western portion of the 804-acre Springfield parcel known as Fort Belvoir North.” [Washington Business Journal]
Falls Church Seeks Information About Cat — “The City of Falls Church Police are looking for the owner of a black cat that bit a person in Big Chimneys Park (210 Gibson St.) on Friday, June 24. The police want to know if the cat is vaccinated against rabies. The cat is described as black with either yellow or brown eyes.” [City of Falls Church]
Influential Local Land Use Lawyer Dies — “Martin D. ‘Art’ Walsh, who helped reshape Arlington’s skyline as co-founder of one of Northern Virginia’s most prominent land use law firms, died June 6 at a hospital in Fairfax County, Va. He was 78 and a resident of McLean, Va.” [The Washington Post]
County Highlights Need for HIV Testing — June 27 was National HIV Testing Day, so the Fairfax County Health Department released a video highlighting an HIV-positive advocate’s journey and the importance of getting tested. While no cure has been found for AIDS, the disease sometimes caused by the virus, which attacks the immune system, prevention and treatment services are available. [FCHD]
Ribbon Cut on Wakefield Pickleball Courts — “This weekend we cut the ribbon on two new pickleball courts at Wakefield Park! Expanding access to this growing sport is a priority in Fairfax County.” [Supervisor James Walkinshaw/Twitter]
Vienna to Laud Local Pets — “The Town is launching the Mayor’s Pet of the Week! Nominate your pet by emailing Mayor@viennava.gov with your pet’s name, the kind of animal it is, and what makes it special. The first honorary award goes to Mayor Colbert’s cat, Ginny!” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]
It’s Tuesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 78 and low of 60. Sunrise at 5:47 am and sunset at 8:40 pm. [Weather.gov]
Multiple noise violations reported at the Vienna Market townhouse development have resulted in a court summons for the site’s construction manager, the Vienna Police Department says.
The most recent incident was reported by a resident around 5:50 a.m. on June 1, according to the department’s highlights report for the week of June 3-9.
“Officers responded to the area and observed the offense taking place,” police said. “Since there had been previous violations at this work site and warnings were previously issued, the site construction manager was issued a summons for the violation.”
Because it’s an active construction site, the VPD said data on how many noise-related warnings have been issued this year for the 200 block of Market Square NW is not readily available. Construction has been underway on the 2-acre site off of Maple Avenue since 2019.
Led by Northfield Development and NV Homes, Vienna Market is replacing the burned-down former Marco Polo restaurant with a four-story, mixed-use building containing 44 condominium townhomes and 8,200 square feet of retail. The project got a final approval from the Vienna Town Council in November 2019.
Vienna’s noise ordinance prohibits construction, demolition, and repair activities before 7 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
Police respond to drinking issues, vandalism
The Vienna Police Department were also kept busy last week by incidents involving public intoxication, spray paint, and one assault at Dunkin’ Donuts (314 Maple Avenue West).
According to the report, a citizen reported that, at 4:45 p.m. on June 6, another man asked for $150 so he “could get back home to Baltimore.”
“When the citizen refused, the suspect slapped him,” the VPD said.
A 38-year-old Fairfax resident was arrested and charged with being drunk in public on June 4 after police received reports of a man “threatening patrons of restaurants in the area,” including at Cedar Park Shopping Center and Panera Bread (136 Maple Avenue).
The individual was taken to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center, where he was joined a day later by a 50-year-old man and 39-year-old woman who were charged with being drunk in public in front of Bazin’s on Church (111 Church Street NW). Read More
Outdoor dining is here to stay in the Town of Vienna — except at 111 Church Street NW.
The new regulations that the Vienna Town Council agreed to after a public hearing on Wednesday (May 11) are mostly straightforward, simplifying the permitting process for permanent and seasonal outdoor dining while setting clear standards for the number of seats allowed, operating hours, and other considerations.
However, in a change from the draft ordinance presented in April, the council voted 6-1 to allow outdoor dining within 60 to 75 feet of a residential property if the patio or tent meets certain conditions:
- No alcohol served
- No waitstaff or servers allowed
- A maximum of eight seats
- Hours of operation, including any time to set up or take down furniture, end at 7 p.m.
Town staff had proposed a prohibition on outdoor dining within 75 feet of residential properties. They said it would affect three of the 22 businesses where the practice is currently allowed under temporary measures introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: Simply Social Coffee, Blend 111, and Bazin’s on Church.
The Vienna Planning Commission unanimously recommended the amendment, arguing that people drinking or eating outside at a cafe poses less potential for conflict between residents and businesses than at a sit-down restaurant.
Staff confirmed that the conditions would let Simply Social retain its outdoor seating, but not Blend 111 and Bazin’s, whose shared patio at the back of 111 Church Street has drawn numerous noise complaints from neighbors.
“That was supposed to be parking,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen said of the restaurants’ outdoor dining area. “We’ve had major complaints, and they just seem to ignore it.”
While the restaurant owners said at a November public hearing that the patio has proven popular, becoming a “lifeline” during the pandemic, residents testified last week that the level of noise had become untenable.
Howard Uman and Theresa Ayotte, whose house is directly behind 111 Church Street, told the town council and planning commission that the noise remains “unacceptable,” even under a temporary ordinance established in December that limited the hours and number of seats for outdoor dining.
“We hear everything and anything that’s in our backyard,” Uman said. “I think there were only one or two people in there, and there was a kid back there screaming his head off and we could hear every single word, so it’s really intrusive.”
Councilmember Nisha Patel made what she called “a last-ditch attempt” to find a compromise between the residents and restaurants, proposing allowing outdoor dining within 75 feet of a residential property under more limited hours and requiring a conditional use permit for more than 12 seats.
Patel said she “would love to just side with the residents” but couldn’t ignore emails that the council has gotten supporting the restaurants, including one read by Mayor Linda Colbert from her predecessor, Laurie DiRocco.
“Noise is one of the things we get probably the most complaints about, but that’s also living in a community,” Colbert said, noting that the town still hears from people who only feel comfortable eating outside.
Colbert voted for Patel’s proposal, which failed on a 5-2 vote, as well as the final ordinance with the planning commission’s recommended amendment.
The town council will formally adopt the new outdoor dining ordinance on June 6, and it will take effect in July, after the current temporary ordinance ends. Businesses that currently have waivers for outdoor dining will have 60 days after the adoption to apply for new permits.
Blend 111 owner Michael Biddick confirmed to FFXnow that his restaurant’s outdoor patio will revert back to a parking lot.
“We are deeply saddened and shocked by the decision of the Vienna Town Council to eliminate our outdoor dining patio,” Biddick said by email. “For many, it is an essential location to enjoy dining safely and a bright spot from the devastating pandemic over the past two years. We regret that the Council did not consider a compromise solution that further limited the hours on the patio and other reasonable steps to mitigate noise concerns from residents living in a nearby home.”
Fairfax County planning officials are honing in on a proposal to allow new residential projects to move forward as part of its airport noise policy.
Changes to the airport noise policy would allow housing in roughly 2,300 acres of the Sully District — largely around Chantilly — to be exposed to higher levels of airplane noise than currently allowed.
The proposal, which was discussed at a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors land use committee meeting on Tuesday (March 15), allows new residential uses between the 60 and 65 Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) airport noise contours. DNL is the average sound level of one day adjusted to account for the more intrusive impact of noise during the night.
Staff emphasized that the proposal would impact a small portion of the county, which is developed with stable residential areas, parkland, and public facilities.
“It would impact a very limited area,” county planner Kelly Atkinson said.
Barbara Byron, director of the Department of Planning and Development, emphasized that anyone seeking to build a residential development in the area would still need the county’s approval for a site-specific comprehensive plan amendment.
Noise contours are graphical representations of projected noise exposure levels linked to airports. The contours referenced by the county are developed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
The county plans to pursue other checks and balances as part of housing policy, staff said.
For example, studies documenting expected noise impacts will be conducted during the development review process. Noise levels should also be managed by selecting construction materials and standards that ensure noise levels within living spaces do not exceed 45 adjusted decibels.
Other steps include post-development noise studies and transparent notification of potential noise-related issues in purchasing agreements and marketing materials.
The board kickstarted the study process in July 2020 when it approved considering an amendment to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan to allow residential uses in the noise contour areas.
The proposal heads to the Fairfax County Planning Commission for a public hearing on May 18, followed by consideration by the board on June 28.
Staff concluded a public outreach period for the proposal, including discussions with local land use committees, the Airports Advisory Committee, and MWAA.
They noted that the change is consistent with land use policies across most jurisdictions with international airports across the country.