Several hundred Clinton residents who didn't know each other until March banded together in a grass-roots war against a utility company and last week celebrated their victory.

The group was protesting plans by Washington Gas Light Co. to lease land in their neighborhood to a gravel company.

Washington Gas Light owns 100 acres along Surratts Road, a rural lane near a residential area, and planned to lease 60 acres to the F.O. Day Co. to extract gravel for building materials.

The residents, joined by Southern Maryland Hospital Center officials, complained that 300 gravel trucks that would travel along Surratts Road each day would cause noise, dust, air pollution and traffic problems.

The hospital was concerned about its emergency vehicles having room to travel on the 3.5-mile road from Rte. 301 to the hospital, which handles 600 cars a day, spokeswoman Peg Greenway said. She said a cardiologist inspected the area and found that dust would endanger a number of residents who have asthma, allergies and respiratory problems.

The residents held fund-raisers and hired a lawyer, Del. Gary Alexander (D-Prince George's), to challenge a special exception permit that the utility needed to start the operation.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission already had approved the permit last month in an earlier step in the permitting process.

But last week, prior to a meeting with the zoning hearing examiner, the company withdrew its application.

"We just felt it should be withdrawn because we want to be responsive to the community," company spokesman Paul Young said. "We don't know yet what we'll do with the land now."

"The citizens were overjoyed," said Alexander after he informed them last Thursday night of their victory. "It was a good example of democracy in action."