Christmas light show hosts could be asked to pay for traffic costs


AUBURN — Backers of popular public events like the annual holiday lights display on Vista Drive could end up paying the city for traffic control, under a plan proposed to city councilors Monday night.

Councilors were poised to pass a new traffic policy that would regulate events that attract between 300 and 1,000 spectators, but councilors decided to table the matter for two weeks.

“I’d like to give the people that operate the lights two weeks to see if this is something they could actually do,” Councilor Michael Farrell said.

But Sharon Loggins of 60 Vista Drive said she feels the proposed rule is too vague.

“If we don’t have the lights on, but people still come by, are we liable?” she asked. “There are just too many questions.”

Her husband, Jamie Loggins, and Vista Drive neighbor Steven Bang have been hosting the displays, with Christmas lights timed to music, on their front yards since 2006.

The shows have proven extremely popular, drawing crowds in their cars to the street each December.

But the traffic drawn to the lights regularly shuts down Park Avenue and makes it difficult for Loggins’ and Bang’s neighbors to get to their homes.

Police have responded to 20 complaints made by neighbors, ranging from  noise to public urination.

Councilors started discussing regulating the displays in June, later settling on a plan to amend the city’s traffic policy.

According to the proposed policy, organizers of special events would need to register a plan with the city and get a permit from the chief of police. They would be expected to reimburse the city for the costs of traffic control, signs and other city expenses.

Police Chief Phil Crowell said it wasn’t the council’s only option, however.

“We currently pay to support eight special events in this city,” he said. “Maybe this becomes number nine.”

Councilor Belinda Gerry said she didn’t like the plan.

“If we pass this, nobody is going to win,” she said. “We’re going to end up charging people to do something for the community but we’re not going to stop the traffic. The neighbors don’t win, nobody does.”

[email protected]