In a split 3-2 vote, Perryville's town commissioners approved Hollywood Casino's 175-foot pylon sign Tuesday night.
More than 30 people came out to hear the vote on the sign, which has been a hot topic of discussion in previous town meetings.
Sarah DiBartolo of Sign Spec Inc., who conducted the August balloon test, showed 16 photos from various points in town where the sign would be visible, which included I-95 south and north, Route 222 East and West near I-95, the corner of Bainbridge and Perryville roads and three parts of the Beacon Point development, where residents have been most vocal about their opposition of the sign.
Scott Metzler, also of Sign Spec, said the sign's lights will be similar to the existing sign on the casino, between 90 and 150 candelas per square meter. Candelas are units of luminous intensity. Lower level commercial signs typically measure in around 70 candelas per square meter.
The sign will be lit by LED lights instead of neon because they are more energy efficient and require less to reach the same level of brightness as neon lights.
Dale Shires, of the 500 block of East Cedar Point Drive, said the pictures included in the balloon test results were taken near his house. Shires asked the board not to let any signs be erected that would be visible from any residential community in Perryville.
He moved to the town 10 years ago with his family from Bel Air and said, "I hope I don't come to regret that." Shires called the sign "obnoxious" and "gaudy," saying he can see the bay from his back yard and doesn't want to see the sign.
Shires had gone around the upper part of the Beacon Point development gathering signatures for a petition against the casino sign, which had 25 to 30 signatures before a few residents at the meeting also asked to sign it. He added that he wasn't able to reach the residents at the bottom of the development.
"We don't need any more of this environmental [pollution]," Shires said.
A resident in the 700 block of Concord Point Drive, who didn't sign up to speak and left immediately after the vote, said he "appreciated" what Shires said, but believes "the city has really gotten benefits" from the casino and supported the approval of the sign.
"We should help our city develop," the man said, referring to the casino bringing in money and jobs to the town.
Dale Williams, of the 400 block of Piney Point Drive, agreed with Shires, saying there was more than just money that was important to the town.
Williams said a cell phone tower, visible in a few of the balloon test photos and taller than the sign would be, can be seen from her home. She commented that the flicker from the tower "is enough" light pollution coming into her home.
"There's got to be a limit," Williams ended.
After the resident spoke, Commissioner Michael Dawson made a motion to approve the sign, adding that Penn National Gaming, the owner of the Hollywood Casino, should be responsible for removal of the sign if and/or when it ceases operation. Commissioner Barbara Brown seconded the motion.
Dawson wanted to explain to the crowd why he supported it.
"I thought this sign was the missing piece" to have the casino grow and prosper, he said, adding he believes the sign is needed to make the casino relevant.
"As you can see, the competition is fierce," Dawson said, citing the other casino nearby having horse racing, fine dining and table games. He added that he, too, lives in the Beacon Point development.
"We can't afford to lose any more jobs," Dawson said. He then encouraged the rest of the board to support the motion.
Commissioner Michelle Linkey said she agreed with Dawson "to a certain degree," but doesn't believe the profits from the casino are worth what the residents would have to deal with.
The sign was then approved by Mayor Jim Eberhardt, Dawson and Brown, with Linkey and Commissioner Alan Fox objecting.