The Washington area's wealthiest small town has taken a stand against the menace that torments but maintains a posh neighborhood lined with spotless, manicured yards. Lawn mowers and leaf blowers -- or, as some residents call them, noise bazookas -- are no longer allowed to disrupt cocktail hour in Chevy Chase Village.
Citing quiet evenings on porch swings overrun by a cacophony of yard work, the community of shade-enclosed, Victorian homes has barred all power landscaping equipment after 6 p.m.
But some residents say the push to squash the buzzing -- or shrieking, depending on whom you ask -- is a step too far in pursuit of the best tranquility money can buy.
"I'm [irritated by] noise too, but this is classic government overreach," said Peter Yeo, secretary of the Board of Managers, of the group's recent 5-2 vote to change the landscaping rule. "Now working dads can't mow their lawns after work. Really? It's using a sledgehammer to kill a gnat."
Montgomery County already employs a rigorous noise ordinance, limiting the volume on leaf blowers and banning loud landscaping tools after 9 p.m.
But that wasn't enough for a handful of the roughly 2,000 Chevy Chase Village residents, particularly U.S. Court of Appeals Judge David Tatel, identified by multiple officials and homeowners as the impetus behind the crackdown.
"I've already been forced to give up working at home," Tatel told The Washington Examiner. "I shouldn't have to give up my porch and back deck, too. This is a big problem. It's just a piercing sound that sends you running back into your house."
Yet even he acknowledges the law is overly restrictive, saying he would prefer the time limitation apply only to professional landscapers.
|Keep off the grass|
|Chevy Chase Village: The new ordinance prohibits the operation of power landscaping equipment between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. on weekdays and between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. on weekends.|
|District: Power landscaping tools are allowed on weekdays during the daytime and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends. Leaf blowers are not allowed between 8:30 p.m. and 8 a.m.|
|Fairfax County: Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, chain saws and other power tools or equipment may not be used between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.|
|Montgomery County: Power landscaping equipment is permitted between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekends. Residents are banned from using leaf blowers that have an average sound level exceeding 70 A-weighted decibels at a distance of 50 feet.|
|Town of Chevy Chase: Residents are barred from operating power landscaping tools after 8 p.m. or before 8 a.m. on weekdays and after 7 p.m. or before 9 a.m. on weekends. On weekdays, residents may use just one piece of power equipment between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.|
Village Manager Shana Davis-Cook said the board has yet to receive any complaints. However, unless they need help shoveling their driveways, most residents are a few months away from calling their landscapers.
In a community where the median home is valued at about $1.2 million and median household income is a quarter of a million dollars, it's an expensive and increasingly professional undertaking to preserve the magazine-worthy lawns.
"It's rare that we see people working on their own yards," said Chad Stern, manager of Mowing and More, a landscaping company in Chevy Chase. "We need those tools to deal with these large yards and mature trees and deliver the quality that people expect. We're already not allowed [under county law] to use a leaf blower with a decent amount of power."
Byron Anderson, an 11-year village resident, says the ordinance punishes those who can't pay a landscaping crew to mow during the daytime.
"Every aspect of life seems to be regulated here," he said. "You'd expect an ordinance like this in a gated community, but this is crossing the line. Cutting your grass is about as American as it gets."
More noise prevention is likely on the way. A panel of village residents will study other noise complaints, such as construction work and booming trucks, and will make recommendations to the board for future regulations.
Board Vice Chairman Peter Kilborn had a concise rebuttal for detractors: "Sorry, tough luck."
"I'd tell critics that this is the law here now," he said. "There are people who like to smoke pot, but they can't. We are a community of laws."