The clouds came, but it didn’t rain. The drums sounded, but no police responded.
Batalá Durham’s drum rehearsal Monday evening at Durham Central Park went off without a hitch, unlike previous practices when police responded to noise complaints.
A supportive crowd spread out on the field as practice began at 6:30 p.m.
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The park has a farmers’ market pavilion, a skateboard park, an art installation called “The Leaf,” a playground, cardinal and turtle statues kids climb on, and two open spaces.
It also has a new luxury apartment building that opened earlier this year in the renovated old Liberty tobacco warehouse. Several residents there have supported Batalá Durham’s rehearsals, but at least one has called the police to complain.
So last week, a Batalá member submitted a permit request for their weekly practices, and City Manager Tom Bonfield instructed the Police Department to respond and record any noise complaints, but not disrupt practice this week. And they didn’t.
City Council member Charlie Reece brought his family and a picnic to Batalá’s practice on Monday. While the permit is being reviewed, Reece has also asked the city attorney to “take a look at the noise ordinance and propose a sort of menu of options,” he said.
There’s no roving band of noise ordinance enforcers, Reece said, who carry devices to measure noise. “It’s complaint-driven,” he said.
Durham Central Park, and CCB Plaza in the center of downtown, have not traditionally had people living next door, Reece said. Both host community gatherings, and both have nearby residential construction underway. He expects the city attorney to have the language for the ordinance ready in the next few weeks.
Donna Spero lives walking distance from Durham Central Park, and came over with her daughter and their dog.
“I really just came because of all the hullabaloo,” Spero said. “I don’t think people should move to Central Park if they’re bothered by noise,” she said. Her dog, a rescue named Augie, lay on the grass next to her, unbothered.
Kaia Spero, Donna’ Spero’s daughter, watched Batalá practice.
“They’re good. That looks hard to do,” she said. She agrees Batalá should be allowed to practice at the park. “It’s a public space,” Spero said.
Batalá drummer Alex Lewis, of Cary, joined the group in January after seeing them perform. He said he’s glad the noise complaint issue has been resolved.
“If [practice] was at a later time, I could understand complaints. But at this hour, people are home from work, and it shouldn’t be too much of a bother,” Lewis said.
Batalá is like a family, he said. “We have a sense of unity, with everybody together,” he said.
As the sun began to set and drum practice ended around 8 p.m., drum leader Caique Vidal thanked the small crowd for their support.
“We’re not going away,” Vidal said. “Don’t worry.”
They will for just a week, though, as on Aug. 21 Vidal and other Batalá mambers will be in Cuba, playing the drums there.