BALTIMORE — Baltimore City's Department of Transportation is now looking into the installation of neighborhood "string" lights after concerns were raised about safety.
"I want them gone," said Noel Wagner. "In no place in the service steel is a steel cable in front of a historic house attractive. That’s our stance."
Wagner lives in the 2000 block of E. Lombard. He's been fighting to have the lights over the sidewalk removed for more than a year. They were installed by the Butcher's Hill Community Association in 2019 to help improve safety.
"If we have to take them to court, we will," said Wagner.
Wagner has retained an attorney.
WMAR-2 News obtained three letters sent to BHCA since September of 2020. The latest was dated February 2021.
The biggest safety issue is how some of the strands are installed, specifically the use of cable wire. Strands are attached to the wire. The cable runs from trees in the sidewalk to city street poles and signs.
"My firm has investigated the legality of the cable wires strung through the neighborhood and attached unto trees, poles, street signs and traffic control devices," one attorney's letter stated. "My office has been advised by the Department of Transportation Right of Way Services Division that Baltimore City has not authorized nor issued a permit for the Association's project. In fact, we have been informed that the attachment of cable wires to street signs and traffic control devices is a liability to Baltimore City."
Neighbors who spoke to WMAR didn't see an issue with the sting lights.
"I think they look cozy. They're bistro lights. The whole neighborhood, half the city, every other street has the lights. I think it’s an improvement. It’s anti-crime," said Joe Rehak.
"I feel so much safer walking down the streets where they have the lights," added Roxanne Rehak. "We think it's an improvement. People love it."
WMAR has learned the community lights are going up without regulation or authorization.
In a statement a spokesperson with Baltimore City's Department of Transportation said:
"It has come to the Department of Transportation’s attention that residents are using “string” lights in the city’s public right of way without regulation or authorization. At this time, since there are no permit regulations established regarding the use of this type of lighting, we are actively working with relevant agencies to develop a proper permitting protocol for the safe usage of “string” lights in city neighborhoods."
Whether a permit is needed or not, Noel Wagner maintains this has been about doing things the right way.
"People keep asking, 'when's the ferris wheel coming next?'" he joked. "It's not. Community Associations can't just put things up because they want to."
WMAR reached out to the Butcher's Hill Community Association for both an on-camera interview and/or statement regarding the current lighting issues. BHCA's current president did not comment but instead directed us back to a 2019 interview on the original project.