Local group puts on the brakes after car shows draw complaints

Local group puts on the brakes after car shows draw complaints

City resident Kyle English, left, is one of several hundred vehicle owners who show their cars at the Low Life Standards car meets at Woonsocket Plaza. English is currently in an online competition to send his vehicle, the Infiniti G35 seen here, to an event in Las Vegas in November. Pictured with him are Low Life Standards organizers Austin Conant of Woonsocket, Ryan Littlefield of Woonsocket and Conner Newton of Franklin, Mass. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

WOONSOCKET – A local car enthusiasts’ group with a large following has agreed to postpone their events and seek out a new location after noise complaints by neighbors drew unwanted attention from police last month.

The group, Low Life Standards, was formed in 2017 by several city residents with a shared interest in cars and other modified vehicles. The group hosts meet-ups around southern New England and has a Facebook page with more than 5,000 followers where members post photos of projects and share info about events.

Since the spring, they’ve hosted events at Woonsocket Plaza, gathering one Sunday night per month from about 8 to 10:30 p.m. According to Austin Conant and Ryan Littlefield, two of the organizers behind the group, the events draw between 900 and 1,500 cars to the plaza every month, with some drivers traveling from as far away as New York and Boston to attend.

“We have that vast amount of people driving, traveling to come to our events because they know that they’re worth a couple hours’ drive to come out,” said Conant.

While the events have boosted the group’s popularity online, neighbors of the Diamond Hill Road plaza are less than thrilled with the turnout. In recent months, residents have taken to social media to air their grievances with the group, complaining of loud engines and reckless driving on nights when events take place. On Sept. 16, Mendon Road resident Larry Poitras brought his complaints to City Hall, telling city councilors the noise resembled a buzz saw outside his house.

“They were racing up and down Mendon Road for I’d say four hours,” he said about the previous week’s event. “This went on all night.”

Organizers acknowledged the concerns of residents, but said they couldn’t control what drivers do after they leave the property. During the meets, they said, they keep a tight hold on what goes on in the plaza, patrolling the parking lot and instructing drivers not to rev their engines or do anything that could create excessive noise. No racing is allowed at the meets, they said, and organizers ask attendees to follow the same rules when they leave the plaza so as not to create a nuisance for city residents.

“We remind people constantly not to do anything illegal, we don’t promote that,” said Littlefield. “We veer away from having people do stuff like that.”

Deputy Police Chief Michael Lemoine said he’s received several complaints related to the events, mostly from later in the evening as individuals are leaving the plazas. Though the department has not received any reports of disturbances at the events themselves, Lemoine said, he has concerns about the large number of people in the plaza and the impact on surrounding neighborhoods. The events, he said, are not officially sanctioned by the city, and do not need a permit because they take place on private property.

“A lot of this is taking place on private property, so that kind of limits what we can do,” he said.

Last week, Lemoine and Police Chief Thomas Oates met with organizers to discuss their concerns. The department, said Lemoine, strongly encouraged the group to cancel the remaining events for the season until they could find a new location. If the events continued, he said, the department was prepared to deploy more officers to the area to strictly enforce traffic laws during and after the next event.

“Given the complaints, we had asked they consider canceling the show and work with the city administration next year to have actually a city-sanctioned car show, whether it’s one or more than one, but let’s work together in finding a proper location that’s going to draw less attention,” he said.

Speaking to The Breeze this week, Conant and Littlefield said they’ve since canceled an October event that had been planned for this Sunday and agreed to work with the city on future events. Prior to meeting with police, they said, they’d already been in touch with a representative from the mayor’s office about holding a possible show on Main Street. That might be an option for next year, but they expressed doubt they’d be able to find another location big enough to host the same scale of event.

Littlefield defended the group’s activities, pointing out the events brought customers to local businesses and gave back to the community. Previous meets, he said, had raised money for animal shelters and participated in Toys for Tots, and the October event was supposed to include a trunk-or-treat for kids. The events also offered a forum for local car enthusiasts to come together and gain a larger following for their projects. One regular participant, city resident Kyle English, is currently in the top eight in an online competition to send his Infiniti G35 to a national show in Las Vegas thanks in part to the votes of his fellow members.

Littlefield characterized the complaints as coming from a small number of residents and said he’s sorry to any residents who were inconvenienced.

“I think it’s given our group a lot of bad, negative look right now, and there’s nothing we’re trying to do that’s bad or negative. We’re just trying to better the city by bringing this together,” he said.

Lemoine said the department would be willing to work with the group in the future and could assign officers to events if they collaborate with the city.

“Bringing people to the city, it’s a great thing, it’s just late on a Sunday night when people have to get up early the next morning,” he said. “And then hearing a lot of noise, I certainly understand where the complaints are coming from.”

Comments

It says a lot of these young organizers that the disturbances occur outside the venue. Hats off to them for keeping things under control.
The plazas are turning to ghost towns. Embrace this activity.
Take advantage of it and the business it brings in.
Rather than complain about it, work with them and find a remedy....
Turn this into a positive event for the city. It is surely in need of some CPR.