Officials defend ball-field lighting Site chosen in '80s, they sat at trial

March 26, 1996|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Mount Airy had planned a lighted baseball field at Twin Ridge Elementary School since the late 1980s, town officials said yesterday in the fourth day of testimony in a civil lawsuit brought by neighbors who say they can't live with the field's powerful lights.

"When I joined the Town Council in 1988, I quickly became aware of the fact that we were in dire need of recreation and parks facilities," Town Councilman David W. Pyatt testified yesterday in Frederick County Circuit Court.

Sixteen homeowners in the development of Twin Ridge say the lights surrounding the ball field and night baseball games have severely disrupted their lives.

Mount Airy officials say the town doesn't have enough ball fields to serve area recreational leagues that draw players from the fast-growing area that includes Carroll, Frederick, Montgomery and Howard counties.

In testimony yesterday before Frederick Circuit Judge John H. Tisdale, Mount Airy officials said they did not alter plans to install the lights after complaints from Twin Ridge residents because other possible sites had already been deemed unsuitable.

"We did consider alternative fields, but there's not that much land that can easily be graded and converted into fields," Mr. Pyatt said.

The Twin Ridge homeowners are seeking the removal of the six 70-foot-high light poles, saying night baseball games have brought unwanted glare, trash, noise and traffic to their neighborhood of $200,000 homes.

They argue that town planning documents never indicated that their community would have a lighted ball field.

Mount Airy attorney Richard Murray said Twin Ridge residents' real estate agents misled them about the intended use of the field.

In response to questioning by William Fallon, attorney for the Twin Ridge homeowners, Mount Airy Town Planer Teresa Bamberger said the town's 1994 master plan showed proposed ball fields in the Twin Ridge subdivision.

Homeowners in the development have said they had no way of knowing from the information in the master plan that the fields would be lighted.

Ms. Bamberger testified that the master plan is only a general guide to land use and "is intended to convey the use proposed -- a ball field here, a tennis court there. It did not get into specific improvements planned at the site."

Mr. Pyatt testified that he responded to complaints from Twin Ridge residents last summer about parking and trash at the field. He acknowledged that spectators violated ball field regulations by parking on the streets in the Twin Ridge development instead of at the elementary school. The councilman said he repeatedly informed baseball league managers of the parking restrictions, with partial success.

From his observations of about a dozen baseball games last summer at the Twin Ridge field, Mr. Pyatt said, trash didn't appear to be a significant problem.

Attorneys expect testimony to continue for several more days.

Pub Date: 3/26/96

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