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Investigation into brightness of tavern lights completed

January 08, 2002

Investigation into brightness of tavern lights completed



By JULIE E. GREENE
julieg@herald-mail.com


SHARPSBURG - A conflict over the brightness of tavern lights may finally be resolved, but the resolution wasn't shared at Monday night's Sharpsburg mayor and Town Council meeting.

"I'm quite sure the result of my investigation will please nobody," Town Attorney Charles Wagaman said.

Wagaman is mailing his findings to the affected parties and will make them available to the public at Town Hall on Thursday.

Wagaman took two months to complete his investigation into the lights on the front of Pete's Tavern, lights neighbors complained were so bright they could read on their porches or in their houses with the light.

Neighbors have complained about the lights since at least September's council meeting. In November seven residents submitted a written complaint and Mayor Sid Gale asked Wagaman to investigate the matter.

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Previously, neighbors said they tried unsuccessfully to get the Main Street tavern's owners to dim the lights. The tavern is co-owned by Willis Baker and Town Councilman Ralph Hammond.

In October, the issue became so contentious that Hammond approached a neighbor after the meeting, while still in the meeting room, to express frustration over the complaint being made at a public meeting. During the exchange, Hammond used profanity at least twice within hearing distance of some people.

Baker has said the lighting in front of the tavern was changed last summer because the previous lights kept going out. The current lighting system uses 500-watt quartz bulbs.

When John Toffling, who lives across the street from the tavern, asked Wagaman whether he talked to anyone during his investigation, Wagaman responded, "This is not a popularity contest. So no, I did not poll the neighborhood."

Wagaman said he took measurements with a light meter under various conditions.

Toffling said he would be glad just to get a decision and believed he was entitled to a reasonably quick decision.

After the meeting, Wagaman said he will recommend the town's Planning Commission review the law pertaining to sign lighting.

Wagaman said the one-sentence law is "inadequate" and not well defined.

The law states, "No lighting of signs shall be permitted which is of a flashing, intermittent, rotating, or other animated type, or which would tend to blind or distract motorists, or which would shine directly onto any lot."

The residents' letter given to the mayor in November states the brighter lights installed over the summer on the front of the tavern blind and distract motorists and shine directly on several neighboring lots. It also states there are red flashing lights on the tavern's front.

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