HAMPSTEAD — Tenacity and an election have paid dividends for residents annoyed by the strobe lights of the WGRX tower.
The station now has six months either to switch to a continuous red light after dark or to appeal Thursday's order by the County Commissioners.
The board announced Thursday its 2-1 vote to order the change after a group of residents petitioned the county last April for a hearing. In 1987, the same request was turned down by a different Board of Commissioners.
Carroll's delegation, led by Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, led the General Assembly to pass a law in 1985 that gave the county the authority to make the order.
"I'm quite happy," said Sean P. Gibbons, 35, of Allview Drive, who was among the residents leading the fight both years. He said he decided to try again this year inthe hope that a different board might rule in the residents' favor.
Shamrock Communications, the station's owner, probably won't give up either, said President William R. Lynett.
"If an appeal is possible, chances are we'll appeal," he said.
When contacted Thursday in Scranton, Pa., he was unaware of the hearing and had not been notified of the decision by the county. He estimated the cost to change to red lights at about $30,000, but said safety is the issue.
"We had been planning to win this on the merits," said Lynett, adding thatpilots can see the strobes more easily than red lights. "If you're going to put up a tower, it should be as safe as possible."
"It affected the quiet and peaceful quality of life" for the Hampstead area,Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said about his reason for voting to order the change. He said support for the move from area state legislators also influenced his decision.
Lynett said he suspectedDell voted as he did because Gibbons has worked on the commissioner's campaigns in the past.
"Absolutely not," Dell said. CommissionerElmer C. Lippy Jr. hardly knows Gibbons, Dell said, but he also voted for the change. "We felt it was the impact on the community. We make a lot of industries do a lot of landscaping (to preserve aesthetics)."
"There's no argument the red lights are acceptable by the (Federal Aviation Administration)," said Lippy.
Commissioner Julia W. Gouge, Hampstead's former mayor, voted against the order, as she did in 1987, because she "did not feel there was enough testimony at the hearing to change my decision from four years ago." She said the station has dimmed the strobes and installed shields to reduce the annoyance to residents.
"Whether it's water contamination or visual pollution, we're a green county and we're able to defend our county," Gibbons said. "We've defended ourselves and our environment from a nuisance."