Arcadia man ending decades-old Christmas lights tradition

For 30 years, Lee Sepanek has transformed his home into a winter wonderland but this year is on hold after frustrated neighbors filed complaints with Phoenix police.

PHOENIX - Lee Sepanek has been covering his Arcadia home with Christmas lights for 30 years, but this year, his house will be dark.

"My trees are usually decorated to the top, and I have six animated windows, six animatronic windows," Sepanek said.

Sepanek says he usually starts decorating his home in October. He begins by going through dozens of storage bins full of lights making sure they all work properly. He always has his display up by Thanksgiving. This year, his lights will stay in storage.

"I'm sad," Sepanek said.

Phoenix city officials said some of Sepanek's neighbors are frustrated with the heavy traffic the light show brings so they've filed complaints with police.

A spokesperson for Phoenix police said they have received two complaints in the past five years.

Last month, city officials met with Sepanek and suggested that he hire people to direct traffic in the Arcadia neighborhood. They also told him he needed a permit to continue selling or giving away hot chocolate.

"I felt that they were slanted in the direction of the people who were complaining," Sepanek said.

After the meeting, Sepanek decided to pull the plug. A couple of neighbors are disappointed.

"It would get a little hectic out here but I guess in my opinion, I just figured it was (the) holidays -- everyone could deal with it for a month or so," said Rizzy Harris. "We love the lights."

"Everyone that I've met so far seems pretty upset," said Nicole Baird, who lives across the street from Sepanek.

Sepanek is now helping decorate his neighbor's houses so his lights don't completely go to waste. He's done seven so far.

"Otherwise the street would be pretty much dark from one end to the other and I didn't want that," said Sepanek.

Sepanek plans on hanging a large banner in front of his house explaining why his house is dark.

Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio weighed in on Facebook, saying in part, "City officials have officially replaced the Grinch and are looking to shut down a 30-year tradition in Phoenix-the display of Christmas lights. Today, I have asked the city manager to leave the Christmas displays alone. Many in our community have enjoyed and made it a part of their Christmas tradition. Every year, just like other families, my wife and I take the kids out at night looking at Christmas displays. This is a tradition in our community and I will do what I need to do to preserve this family tradition. City officials need to relax and get a life, we have better things to do than to regulate Christmas tree displays."

The Arizona Republican Party also issued a statement on the Christmas lights controversy. Arizona GOP Chariman Jonathan Lines said, "This is bureaucratic, liberal overregulation at its finest. A government and mayor that think they know better are trying to swoop in and control a neighborhood Christmas light display. Don't be a grinch Mayor Stanton - listen to your constituents and have some holiday spirit!"

Sepanek has set up a GoFundMe account for storage, electricity and a lawyer to fight the city.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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