Battle continues over holiday lights in Flower Hill

Bob Young and his daughter speak before the Flower Hill board of trustees during Wednesday's meeting. (Photo by Luke Torrance)

The Christmas season might be over, but the battle over one Flower Hill resident’s Christmas lights display is not.

The light display of Bob Young on Sunnyvale Road has become a major attraction in the village, but it has also caused problems with traffic and neighbors.

Tensions between Young and village officials bubbled over the week of Christmas, which led the Board of Trustees to commit most of their January meeting to describe their side of the story and dispel rumors that had been swirling, which included a potential ban on holiday.

“The village of Flower Hill has never discussed in any way, shape or form banning holiday lights,” Mayor Robert McNamara said at the meeting. “There is a rumor that started to that affect and I’m here to flat out deny it… you may also have heard the village is going to shut down charitable donations… this is totally untrue.”

Rumors that the village was considering a ban on Christmas lights and donation boxes were tied to two requests that the village made of Young: to turn off several flashing lights and to move his charity box further back from the street, as it was in the village’s right of way.

The Young family argued that the flashing lights had been fixed and that the village had verbally agreed to let them keep the charity box where it was.

“You granted us permission to have [the charity box] right where it’s been for five Christmases,” he said. “And then to suggest that we never had that approval is highly disingenuous.”

The collection box is in memory of Young’s daughter, who died in 2013.

Young asked for a cooling off period as, he said, he was unaware the light display would be an agenda item and had not prepared full remarks. McNamara denied a request to adjourn the issue.

“You upset us many times over Christmas,” Young said.

After giving their remarks, the Young family left and did not hear the village’s response.

Deputy Mayor Brian Herrington, who was the village’s chief contact with Young, said presented a packet containing emails between Young and the village and text messages sent from Young to Herrington.

In the text message, Young frequently expressed frustration with his neighbors (referring to one as “the grinch”) and with the village officials conducting traffic.

“Btw the dude in front of the house is not on the same page. Tell him to go home before I lose it” Young writes in one text message. “He is very arrogant and he needs to cut it out. Frankly having them here is a waste of money.”

Eventually, Young’s frustration turned on to Herrington.

“Flower Hill has successfully crushed my Christmas and spirit,” Young wrote. “Congrats on a job well done… Seems like being a grand pubba [sic] in the village has gone to ur [sic] head old sport… can’t believe how dishonest you are.”

The village has stepped into to direct traffic while the light display is up because Young’s neighbors were frustrated with visitors making U-turns and blocking the street.

Sunnyvale Road has been turned into a one-way road during the holiday season the past couple years, and the village said policing it has cost taxpayers $16,000 the past two years.

Herrington also played two voicemails he received from Young, including one after the village sent Young a letter requesting the box be movedd back.

“Hey Brian what kind of bulls— letter is this you sent me?” Young asks in the message. “I’ve responded, I’ve complied. This letter is total bulls—. That’s bulls— with a capital B and capital S, okay? I have no respect for you Brian, absolute zero respect.”

After the presentation, several residents came forward to give their opinion.

Several said they had come out to support Young, but realized now that he had overreacted. Many praised the village for its handling of the situation.

But a few said they sympathized with Young, considering the turmoil he had gone through with the loss of his daughter. But McNamara said that was no longer an excuse for his behavior.

“He had this circus going on before his daughter died,” he said. “If you want to find an excuse, you can find one.”

About the author

Luke Torrance

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