PHOENIX, Ariz. - After more than thirty years of decorating his Arcadia home, Lee Sepanek says his house will stay dark this holiday season. The decision was prompted by some neighbors who complained about the heavy traffic caused by the elaborate display.
"Get a life," Sepanek said in reference to those neighbors in a Tuesday night news conference in the driveway of his home.
In October, officials from the City of Phoenix sat down with Sepanek to discuss the complaints filed by concerned neighbors. During that meeting, Sepanek says he was told he would need to obtain a permit if he wanted to continue selling or giving away hot chocolate during his holiday light show.
Sepanek also says officials warned that if they received one more complaint, they would shut down his production. Sepanek says that message is what ultimately led to him to cancel his longtime tradition.
City representatives have a different story.
"The city cannot and does not regulate private property holiday light displays," city officials told 12 News.
The statement goes on to say, "This is not an issue between the homeowner and the city. This is an issue between the homeowner and his neighbors."
Despite the statement, the Goldwater Institute is now getting involved. The conservative advocacy group calls the Christmas light controversy a classic case of overregulation. It's asking the city to put in writing exactly what they told Sepanek during the private meeting. Depending on the city's answer, attorneys say they could have a lawsuit on their hands.
"We want to get assurances for Lee that this isn't going to happen to him again," said Jon Riches, the Goldwater Institute's director of national litigation.
Sepanek has placed a large sign in front of his home explaining why he pulled the plug on his lights.
"If I get something in writing from the city so I don't have this threat on my back I'd definitely put my lights up next year," Sepanek said.
Sepanek has decorated ten of his neighbor's homes with his lights so his neighborhood isn't completely dark.
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