West Towson Elementary sign annoying to neighbors

An electric sign put up recently in front of the new West Towson Elementary School has angered neighbors who say it does not fit in with the residential neighborhood.

The sign, located on Charles Street across from the Baltimore County Board of Education building, blinks the time and temperature in red. Built in several parts that are stacked on top of one another, it announces the new school as well as Ridge Ruxton School.

"I just think the sign is inappropriate. It is out of character with the rest of the neighborhood," said Ralph Ferrell, who lives near the school. "It is a sign that should be over on York Road in a commercial area."

Put up along a section of Charles Street that has residences or large institutions, including Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Sheppard Pratt Health System and Loyola Blakefield, the sign is considered an eyesore by many neighbors. Both Loyola Blakefield and the Board of Education headquarters have signs that are attractive and don't have any electronics, said Leslie Tunney, another area resident.

But the principal of West Towson, Susan Hershfeld, said she hadn't received many complaints until recently. She said she believes the neighbors will feel better about the sign once the blinking red stops. The staff is waiting to be trained on how to operate the electric portion of the sign, and once that happens, she said the sign will have a message that is static.

In addition, she said, the intensity of the red lights can be modified. "I think people will be much more satisfied when they see the sign isn't changing," she said.

Hershfeld said she didn't have a lot of choice in what sign to put up. "Most of the signs that are made now are electronic. It is the technology that people are using now," she said.

Charles Herndon, a spokesman for Baltimore County public schools, said the sign cost $35,000 and was paid for as part of the construction funds for the school, which opened this fall to relieve crowding in Towson-area elementaries.

He said the school district has received few complaints.

Tunney said she is hopeful the sign can be taken apart so that each school can have its own piece in front of its building. "It doesn't belong there because Charles Street is noted as a scenic highway," she said.

The county zoning office does not have control over the signage because it is considered a state project. A sizable portion of the money to build the school came from the state.

Ferrell says he doesn't know what solution would alleviate his concerns, but he doesn't want more money spent on another sign. "They have wasted the money. The money should be spent on education not on signs. It is a tragedy. Somebody wasn't thinking," he said.


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