Judge rules Carroll ball field lights can stay Residents claimed neighborhood disrupted

April 12, 1996|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

The floodlights surrounding a Mount Airy baseball field will remain despite a legal challenge from a group of homeowners who claimed they destroyed the serenity of their neighborhood.

Frederick County Circuit Judge John H. Tisdale said he believed the lights had disrupted the lives of Twin Ridge residents and imposed restrictions on when they can be used. However, he concluded that the benefits of the ball field outweigh the concerns of the 16 homeowners.

The judge ruled in a dispute that has divided some longtime Mount Airy residents and newcomers to the town. Many of the latter live in expensive subdivisions like Twin Ridge.

Judge Tisdale said he wished he could do more to smooth the "troubled waters" the lawsuit has left and urged the parties to use "common sense" to resolve their differences.

"I don't think this is a situation where anyone should be pleased," said Mount Airy's attorney, Richard Murray. "I think it's more important that the communities get together and put the lawsuit behind them."

Based on Twin Ridge homeowners' response to the judge's ruling, that will take some time.

When Mount Airy Town Councilman Normand Hammond approached a group of Twin Ridge residents after the judge's decision, he was met with angry, bitter comments.

"I hope after we all calm down we can decide where we are and can go from there," Mr. Hammond told them. "We're all going to live together; let's make it as easy as possible."

Beth Bruner, whose home is one of the closest to the ball field, said she plans to move.

"All that work for nothing," said Ms. Bruner, who broke into tears at the judge's ruling.

Twin Ridge homeowners filed suit against Mount Airy in October claiming the six 70-foot stadium lights surrounding the Twin Ridge Elementary School field and the night baseball games played under them have brought unwanted glare, trash, noise and traffic.

In testimony during the five-day trial, residents complained that the powerful 1000-watt lights disturb their sleep, prevent them from sitting outside on their decks and even interfere with their sex lives.

Residents also said they're bothered by loud cheering and yelling during games and are fearful of the strangers who come to their neighborhood to watch youth baseball.

Mount Airy officials maintain that construction of a lighted ball field had been planned since 1988 to be used mainly by ballplayers ages 13 to 18 in a Babe Ruth league.

Recreational facilities in the town of 5,000, that is divided by the Carroll-Frederick County line, haven't kept pace with growth in the surrounding area, a region that is home to about 30,000 people.

Judge Tisdale said he visited the ball field three times, twice when the lights were on. He concluded the character of the neighborhood was different when the lights were in operation and that the glare inside homes close to the field can be "quite intrusive."

Judge Tisdale ordered that the lights must be turned off at 9: 30 p.m. except on nights preceding holidays and weekends, when the lights may remain on until 10 p.m. The judge also ordered Mount Airy to impose more effective parking restrictions during games.

Pub Date: 4/12/96

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