Councilors split on holiday light regulation

AUBURN — Councilors want to hear from Vista Drive residents before they'll decide if they should regulate a popular light display on that street.

City Manager Glenn Aho said he would talk to the residents that create the displays and their neighbors and see if they would be willing to talk to councilors.

"I need to see how they want to proceed,"  Aho said. "I think some of the neighbors have valid concerns, but I need to see they are willing to talk about them here."

Vista Drive residents Jamie Loggins and Steven Bang have made the street famous by hosting meticulously timed Christmas-light displays on their homes for a month each December. The lights are set to music and regularly draw crowds of spectators in cars for the nightly show.

The city currently regulates home businesses that draw smaller crowds to residential neighborhoods.

Aho also pointed to a list of 20 police complaints made by neighbors on the narrow cul-de-sac. Complaints ranged from noise to public urination.

"The question tonight I'd like the councilors to discuss is whether it's reasonable to regulate this kind of thing," Aho said. That could include imposing time limits on the display or requiring them to get a permit.

Councilor Belinda Gerry said she was firmly against any kind of regulation, unless the council was willing to put limits on every other kind of public display — from Veterans Day flags to holiday parades.

"It's not right for us to target this one event when there are so many other events and things in town that do the same thing," Gerry said.

Councilor Dan Herrick agreed.

"We might as well target some regulation at trains," Herrick said. "Trains cause even bigger traffic jams all over the city."

And Herrick  doubted most Vista Drive neighbors minded, despite the police complaints.

"Most of the time, those complaints come from one or two people," Herrick said.

Councilor Mike Farrell said he disagreed with singling out Loggins and Bang.

"They pay exorbitant property taxes and should be allowed to do what they want with their property," Farrell said.

But Councilor Robert Hayes said the displays could be a safety issue if traffic blocks emergency vehicles from reaching Vista Drive homes.

"We need to be respectful of all the residents there," Hayes said. "The neighbors pay high property taxes, too."

Councilors David Young, Ray Berube and Eric Samson said that neighbors did deserve some protection, but said they wanted to hear from them directly.

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 's picture

I too pay a lot in property

I too pay a lot in property taxes, and being just a few blocks away from Vista Drive feel that the display is a nuisance the fact that they have to close Park Ave at Lake St proves that. If these folks want to show off their light displays 'whopty doo' let the City charge them for two officers @ OT with cruisers to control traffic and a fee for creating a circus atmosphere. See then how long they will continue their charade.

 's picture

The Loggins and Bangs have

The Loggins and Bangs have some of their own volunteers to help direct traffic and they are good at what they do. It is said that in the pass some of Auburn's police officers on their own kindly volunteered to help direct traffic as well as some of their non officers at the entrance of Vista Dr. on Park Ave. The problem now is if the Police Chief doesn't have the volunteers it costs his dept. to provide the service. However the cost of it is minor compared to the cost of other public events.

It also costs the city money when the same neighbors call and officers respond and find no problems with the traffic flow or people that are viewing the lights.

Another underlining problem is if you mess with the City Manager he can hold a grudge. He came off last night as one who is now not willing to sit down with all parties and come up with a fair solution. It appears that he has lost his objectivity.

I am not saying that the concerns of the neighbors are valid or not just that what ever the out come it is fair an just for all parties involved.

 's picture

We need more displays

No one at the meeting last night suggested a "friendly competition" among the various neighborhoods in Auburn (and Lewiston) to see who could put up the best display. The problem is too much concentrated traffic. If we have a competition, the traffic would be more spread out over the city (or cities) and would cease to be a problem. I know New Auburn is starting to organize a community identity and/or association and this would be a great project to promote the area. We could start a "Christmas Light Display Battle of the Bridge" to see which side can attract more gawkers.

Alternately, Councilor Herrick came up with a novel idea. He stated that we could take the $10,000 we put in a twenty minute fireworks display and build an incredible light display in a more accessable area. A month long display is a better use of money than a twenty minute fireworks show. I'm not sure if he was serious or not, but it is a novel idea worthy of consideration.

 's picture

Not Herricks ward

Vista Drive is part of ward two (Councilor Hayes' Ward) not ward three. Perhaps Councilor Hayes has polled the Vista Drive residents and that is why this has been brought to the councils attention.

 's picture

More To The Story

The Reporter wrote a good story but you will have to watch Wednesday's rebroadcast of the meeting. It wasn't discussed in the regular workshop due to time and was sandwiched in to the regular City Council meeting.

Councilor Gerry spoke in great lengths in support of not trying to single out the Bangs and Loggins for reasons to write or amend an ordinance to prohibit or restrict their rights to be able to set up their display and share it with all Auburn residents and other visitors. City Manager Aho would not say he would work with the Bangs and Loggins and their neighbors to come up with an appropiate solution to the proceived problems. In fact the City Manager said he wanted a meeting with their neighbors to hear their concerns and have their input to write this ordinance.
No surprise Councilors Herrick and Farrell were the only other City Councilors to back Councilor Gerry up.
You could tell that most of the other City councilors had already made of their mind and that they were siding with the neighbors and City Manager.
Too bad that they, the City Councilors, are not willing to work together with the neighborhood as a whole to address the issues and come up with fair compromises. They have chozen instead to pit neighbor against neighbor.

vista drive

Once again It takes Belinda to provide relativite sanitry to a simple effort to a relatively simple issue!


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