Car clubs seek isolated spot in Durham for loud, late-night meet-ups
Posted October 19, 2021 4:28 p.m. EDT
Updated October 19, 2021 7:24 p.m. EDT
Durham, N.C. — Complaints from Durham residents and a crackdown by law enforcement have groups of car enthusiasts pushing for a compromise to allow them to continue holding their loud, late-night gatherings.
Nicholas Clark, an organizer for Durham Meetz, which stages the gatherings, said club members would gladly pay for a site where they could meet and not disturb anyone. But local officials haven't responded to their offers, he said.
"We really don’t mean harm with the stuff that we do. We just need some type of outlet," Clark said Tuesday. "We want a safe haven."
Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said he hasn't heard from anyone in Durham Meetz but is willing to talk with them.
"Other groups have tried to find somewhere in the city that works in terms of far from neighbors, etc., but have not been able to locate any place that I know of," Schewel said in an email to WRAL News.
Residents have long been frustrated with the meet-ups, which feature revving engines and squealing tires as drivers "drift," or do donuts, across parking lots.
Bill Powell said the gatherings were what prompted him to move from Durham to Tennessee last December.
"Every Saturday, Sunday, Friday night, it would be a ridiculous, loud time. There was no sleep," Powell said. "It was not only dangerous and loud. It was somewhat terrifying in the middle of traffic having people race."
Cars would often stage impromptu street races as people headed to or home from the meet-ups, he said.
"I don’t begrudge anyone for having a good time in an isolated area, parking lot, whatever. It’s the danger and the noise on the streets themselves that’s the problem," he said.
Clark said neither he nor other Durham Meetz organizers condone street racing.
"We’ve seen [and] heard of people getting into accidents or being killed. We don’t want anybody to get hurt," he said.
In response to resident complaints, local law enforcement went undercover several months ago at some meet-ups and later charged a number of people with violating mass gathering restrictions that were in place at the time to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Clark said he also was charged with driving with a revoked license. He resolved the case a couple of weeks ago with a guilty plea and was sentenced to a year on probation and 100 hours of community service.
"We’re really not bad people," he said, noting that the meet-ups help keep people out of gangs and away from violence.