Councilors split on holiday light regulation

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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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