There is currently a proposal in Fairfax County, Virginia
that would limit “frequent and large gatherings” in neighborhood homes. The zoning ordinance, if passed, would
limit houses to 49 people per day and large groups would not be able to meet
more than three times in any 40-day period.
While there have been complaints about large groups meeting
at homes, the number of complaints has been small when considering that Fairfax
County is the most populous in Virginia.
This new ordinance, if passed, could put a damper on
Superbowl parties, church groups, and meetings for other organizations. Of course, you could think of any
number of potential issues from open houses to garage sales, which would easily
draw more than 49 people in a day.
Some opponents are already starting to prepare for lawsuits
on constitutional grounds.
From a constitutional standpoint, I’m not sure that this
ordinance would really be in violation.
From a pro-liberty standpoint, decentralization is better. When you give the federal courts the
power to do good, they are also going to use it for bad purposes. These zoning and ordinance issues
really are meant to be handled at a local level.
Of course, we know that the federal government violates the
Constitution every day and would not hesitate to rule on something where it
should not have any jurisdiction.
I can understand why liberty advocates would still use the federal
courts to their advantage when possible.
It is not as if the federal courts are going to stop ruling on local
issues either way.
This proposed ordinance is obviously a violation of property
rights in that it would punish people who have done nothing wrong.
I’m sure there are some valid complaints about a few people
who had big parties that caused a lot of noise and chaos. But should property owners who hold a
quiet church group meeting once a week of 50 people have to suffer because of
the misdeeds of others?
The interesting thing here is that the county obviously
isn’t enforcing the rules that already exist. I don’t think there is a county or local jurisdiction in the
U.S. that doesn’t have a noise ordinance.
There are laws against disturbing the peace. Even liberty advocates can agree with such laws as loud
noise can be considered “noise pollution” and a violation of other people’s
If there are complaints about loud parties, then the
party-goers and the homeowners throwing the party are already in violation of
an ordinance. If they aren’t
following the rules, then why are they going to start following a new rule?
I suppose you could make a comparison with anti-gun
laws. When the government makes it
harder to legally own a gun, it makes it harder for the law-abiding
citizens. It doesn’t make a
difference to criminals, because they weren’t following the laws that were
The good news about this proposed ordinance in Fairfax
County is that it is limited to one county. When there is a bad law, it is better that it affects one
local area than affect 300 million people. And at least at the local level, there is always a slight
chance for repeal, which is almost impossible in Washington DC.