Duke students' house over limit

Duke students' house over limit

Staff WritersOctober 12, 2005 

City officials say too many people live at a Watts Street home where Duke University students held a rowdy party last weekend and insist that one resident must leave.

After learning this week that seven people are living together at 203 Watts St., the Durham zoning inspector issued a notice of violation of the city's occupancy ordinance to the residents and landlord of the property.

City code permits only three unrelated people to live together in a "housing unit," according to Frank Duke, the planning director. But with two kitchens and two full bathrooms, 203 Watts St. is technically a duplex, city officials say, meaning six unrelated people can live together there.

Police learned there were seven residents after being summoned to the property early Sunday morning by neighbors complaining of loud music and unruly behavior. If one person has not moved out by 5 p.m. Friday, city officials plan to fine each resident and the landlord, Guy Solie, $300 for each day that they are over the limit.

Solie said Tuesday afternoon that only six names were on the lease and that the student who was not supposed to be living there would be moved out by Friday.

The party at 203 Watts St. angered many.

Not only did neighbors complain about noise and underage alcohol consumption, one woman caught some of the party-goers urinating against her house.

Alcohol law enforcement officers made a sweep of Durham's neighborhoods and bars earlier this semester to send a strong message at the start of the school year. Many who were cited in that sweep were in court Tuesday.

On Aug. 25 and Aug. 27, agents issued 159 citations for underage possession of alcohol. An agent who looked young enough to be a student finagled entrance to several house parties those nights and then reported back whether the house was full of potential violators, Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong said. Agents broke up three parties and sent many freshmen to court Tuesday.

Prosecutors offered a diversion program for first-time offenders. Those who pleaded guilty could do community service and probation and have their records expunged if they stayed out of trouble.

David Hoffman, 18, was among those Tuesday contemplating that offer. He said he was at a party with 30 to 40 people. Agents busted in and shouted that it was a raid. Hoffman, who is from Pennsylvania, had been at Duke for less than a week when he found himself with a pending criminal charge.

"There was definitely a somber mood for like a week," he said.

Staff writer Anne Blythe can be reached at 932-8741 or ablythe@newsobserver.com.

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