Resident feels unfairly targeted by Flower Hill display law

Luke Torrance
Bob Young's Christmas lights display in Flower Hill. The display has caused controversy in the village. (Photo by Luke Torrance)

For years, Flower Hill resident Bob Young has set up a huge Christmas light display on his property on Sunnyvale Road. But he fears the future of his display could be in jeopardy due to a new light display law being considered by the Board of Trustees.

“This law is anti-Christmas and anti-Young family,” he said. “It is the most ludicrous law that I’ve ever seen.”

The law in question is an amendment to the village’s lighting and exhibition laws that was proposed during a trustee meeting earlier this month. Under the amendment, any illuminated outdoor display in a residential zone that attracts 20 or more people in three days of a 10-day period would be classified as an exhibition display. These displays would require a permit from the village, a $100 fee each day the lights are on, and would only be able to operate between 5 and 9 p.m.

“How can they tell you to pay for the actions of others?” Young said.

Young has been putting up his Christmas display for more than two decades, and his house has become something of a tourist attraction during the holiday season. But the popularity of the display has created traffic problems, which led to the village stepping in. Sunnyvale was temporarily turned into a one-way street and village employees directed traffic.

Flower Hill Deputy Mayor Brian Herrington said that the village had to get involved with the traffic situation on Sunnyvale.

“The trustees were elected to maintain safety in the village,” he said. “When residents alert us to traffic causing public safety problems, we can’t just look the other way.”

Young said that in the past, things generally went smoothly with the village. But during the 2017 Christmas season, he said one employee directing traffic was rude and the village became hostile thereafter.

“It went from, one day everything was great to another day it was off the rails,” he said.

He said he had spoken with other people who put up Christmas displays in the New York area and they had not had to deal with restrictive laws.

“They’re attacking a long, generational Christmas tradition of families going out in their cars to look at lights,” Young said. “If everyone passed this there would be no lights to look at, that’s how outrageous this is what they’re trying to do.”

But Herrington said the village had precedent — citing instances like a display in New Jersey that was shut down for drawing large crowds — and other North Shore villages like Sands Point prohibit flashing lights.

None of the surrounding villages had a law this specific regarding displays, but Herrington said none were in the same situation.

If you look around the surrounding communities, nobody has had to deal with an issue like this,” he said. 

The law on exhibition displays in similar to the one in the code of the City of Prairie Village in Kansas.

Young said he will challenge the law and has reached out to the county district attorney.

The village will hold a public hearing on the law during its trustee meeting on May 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall.

About the author

Luke Torrance

Luke Torrance is a reporter for Blank Slate Media covering the Port Washington area.
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