What legal grounds do I have against noise and light pollution?

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What legal grounds do I have against noise and light pollution?

The store across the street from me randomly gets deliveries at all hours of the night and early morning. The sound of the reverse signals, the banging of metal doors, ramps, storage containers, etc. wakes me up. Often, I cannot go back to sleep. The store is located on a side street with a dead end and one other side street turning off of it. The store is surrounded on all sides by garden style condominiums. My home is directly across the street from it. Most deliveries are made between the hours of 6AM-7PM. One truck regularly comes between 8-11PM.

This has been going on for ten years. In that time I have tried various means to a resolution. I have called the 7-11 customer service number and written a certified letter to the local corporate office no response from either, spoken directly with cashiers, managers, and district managers of the store, contacted my condo association, talked to drivers myself and called our citys non-emergency number and had police talk to drivers, emailed our county board and Police Chief, and talked to a person who enforces noise ordinances. I have also documented almost every delivery time and date and if I took any actions. Unfortunately, there has been no lasting resolution. The disturbance is affecting me personally. The truck sounds awaken me abruptly and I usually cannot go back to sleep. This leaves me exhausted and stressed. It has impacted the quality of my work. It has impacted my mental well-being as I will break down crying out of exasperation, exhaustion and stress. This past Friday the store installed three extremely bright lights that shine outward and into my living room and bedroom windows. This is another impediment to the basic enjoyment of my home and another battle that I fear I will lose. What further actions can I take? Is it not unreasonable for me to have 8-10 hours of quiet every night and get a proper nights sleep?

Asked on February 5, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If the municipality cannot or will not enforce noise, etc. ordinances against the store, or if there are no ordinances directly applicable, your only option would be to bring a lawsuit for "nuisance." A "nuisance" is a use or action which is inappropriate for the neighborhood; shining bright lights in a mostly residential neighborhood, or getting deliveries at inappropriate times of night in such a neighborhood, are potentially nuisances. (Other examples have included having junkyards in residential areas; slaughterhouses in residential areas, or bars/restaurants playing music via external speakers too late at night.) If a court finds that the behavior does constitute a nuisane, then it can "enjoin" the behavior--that is, issue a court order restricting it in some way. The court can also potentially award monetary damages or compensation. 
Nuisance suits can be complicated and expensive, since there is no objective or "bright line" rule about what is and is not a nuisance; it is very circumstance-specific and subjective. Establishing that something is a nuisance, especially if it is permitted by local zoning (the presumption is that is something is allowed by zoning, it is proper for that area) can be difficult. If other neighbors are also affected, it may be a good idea to pool your resources and jointly hire an attorney; not only will this reduce the cost to any one person, but the more neighbors who complain, the stronger the case.


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