For 30 years, Lee Sepanek has decorated his Phoenix, Arizona home for Christmas.
Over time, Sepanek’s decorations have become a local tradition, with people driving from all over the state to take a gander at his house decked out with dazzling Christmas trees and illuminated candy canes, he told AZFamily.
He even sold cookies and hot cocoa to warm the spirits of all who visited (and, of course, help fund his electricity bills.)
But there will be no lights at Sepanek’s home this Christmas.
Instead, for the first time in three decades, Sepanek won’t be putting up any decorations at all, he wrote on a GoFundMe page.
“In 30 years never a complaint, then new neighbors 6 doors away move in last year and complained to the city of Phoenix Az. about the traffic,” he wrote on GoFundMe. “City could not stop us from decorating but they did tell us we were in violation of zoning because of the Cocoa sales. I said ok I will give it away, they said we could not do that.
“If we were to decorate this year they wanted us to hire 5 to 6 adults and put them in reflective vests to walk the streets in my neighborhood and direct traffic and make sure no driveways were blocked,” he continued. “So for this year we are not decorating.”
Sepanek told AZFamily that officials from the city of Phoenix met with him last month, telling him that “they would come over and shut (him) down” if they received more complaints about blocked driveways caused by his decorations this year. The city, however, said they just gave him suggestions about traffic control.
Some neighbors, like Danny Harris, said they are disappointed that Sepanek’s decorations won’t light up the neighborhood.
“I think they should keep it on,” Harris told Fox10, “because it brings happy cheers to everybody.”
But other residents who spoke to Fox10 off-camera complained about the huge display, saying the large amount of visitors often leave trash in their yards and prevent them from throwing holiday parties.
Arizona politicians have started taking sides, too.
Sal DiCiccio, a Phoenix city councilman, wrote on Facebook that he “asked the city manager to leave the Christmas displays alone.”
“This is a tradition in our community and I will do what I need to do to preserve this family tradition,” he wrote. “City officials need to relax and get a life, we have better things to do than to regulate Christmas tree displays.”
Jonathan Lines, chairman of the Arizona GOP, decried the incident as “bureaucratic, liberal over-regulation at its finest” in a statement to 12News.
As the debate rages on, Sepanek is donating his lights to other neighbors, helping seven of them decorate their own houses so far.
“Otherwise the street would be pretty much dark from one end to the other,” he told 12News, “and I didn’t want that.”