Town Hall Draws a Crowd and News Coverage

Over the past year, residents of The Village of River Hill and surrounding area have experienced a noticeable uptick in the number of loud modified cars driving through neighborhoods and on local roads. Social media sites provide video evidence of large unpermitted car rallies, drivers loudly performing dangerous and illegal stunts on residential streets, and damage to parking lots in Columbia. The noise has disrupted residents’ ability to work and talk on the phone indoors, enjoy their yards, and in some areas of the Village, drivers and bystanders at these coordinated events have trespassed on residents’ property.

On August 8, the River Hill Community Association hosted a Town Hall meeting for interested parties to address a panel of local officials and share their opinions about modified cars, car rallies, street racing, and safety. The event was livestreamed, and highlights reported by WBAL Baltimore. Audience members voiced their opinions, most of which were in opposition to car rallies and the use of loud modified cars in general. Car enthusiasts, some of whom regularly attend local car rallies, as well as some River Hill residents that own modified cars, were also in attendance. They spoke in favor of the car rallies and the right to modify their cars. Video of illegal activities associated with recent rallies and photos of property damage were displayed. Residents of Whistling Winds Walk questioned the legality of organizing regular rallies in Clarksville without a permit. Dave Elsaesser explained that the windows of his home often rattle due to the revving of engines and general loudness emitted from cars on display during rallies at Clarksville Square shopping center which is adjacent to his property. Tim and Kerri Finkelston noted that the frequent car rallies have forced them to completely change the way they live in their house. On one recent occasion, Mr. Finkelston stated, he had to stop working from his home office due to the noise from the car rally at Clarksville Square and head into his company’s office in Columbia to accomplish tasks for his job.

The panel of guests, including Howard County Chief of Police Gregory Der, spoke about the increase in street racing and modified cars throughout the County and stated that the trend gained popularity early in the pandemic. Chief Der noted it was illegal to modify cars to emit more noise, but that the fines were small and often avoided when a cited owner had a vehicle repair shop that would falsely sign off on corrective work not actually performed. A representative from State Delegate Jen Terrasa’s office declared the problem of street racing was increasing statewide and the need to require commensurate statewide efforts.

Police also noted that flagrant traffic violations were dangerous to pursue as high-speed chases endanger the public. The panel discussed automated monitoring of speed, turn, and noise violations. The panel adjourned with several positive actions planned:
• Chief Der announced the establishment of a task force dedicated to illegal street racing, stunt driving and loud cars, but noted state and county laws were not adequate to the challenge.
• Maryland State Senator Katie Fry Hestor, District 4 County Council Representative Deb Jung, Maryland State Delegate Reid Novotny, and District 5 County Council Representative David Yungmann agreed to form a Traffic Safety Panel to address what changes in legislation are necessary to provide police the needed legal tools. River Hill Board members will be asked to provide input and comment to the panel.
• The new panel would also explore funding, manpower and technologies to assist the police.

The River Hill Board thanks those who participated in the meeting, and the distinguished panel members who took the time to engage with the audience and address the concerns with thoughtful and informative responses. Official commitment to take action will hopefully resolve some of the conflict.