Flower Hill passes law regulating light displays

Deputy Mayor Brian Herrington (left) and Mayor Robert McNamara at a July 2018 meeting. McNamara won't be seeking re-election as mayor in the forthcoming village election. (Photo by Luke Torrance)

After months of debate, the Flower Hill Board of Trustees passed a law on Monday that would regulate lighting displays in the village.

Called the “exhibitions law,” the new rule will require homes that have “illumination of an outside area” that resulted in 20 or more people visiting on three days within a 10-day period to obtain a permit from the village.

While the law makes no mention of Christmas, its passage is a reaction to the holiday light display of village resident Robert Young. Young’s annual light display on Sunnyvale Road is a popular holiday tradition, but the increase in visitors has led to frustrated neighbors and village officials.

Under the new law, the applicant will have to provide the village with a detailed description of the display. The applicant will be required to mail all residents in a 200-foot radius of the display a notice of a hearing on the display.

The village board will be able to impose hours of operation and charge a fee that would cover the village’s cost related to the display. These costs could cover costs for advertising, stenographic minutes and legal fees and consultants. In order to cover this, applicants will be required to make a $500 deposit.

“This allows for the village to properly manage these events,” said Deputy Mayor Brian Herrington, who wrote the law. “I’d say overall, I think we’ve made a lot of progress on this and I’m hopeful it will help the community.”

Past meetings have been marked by debate between the board, residents  and Young. There was little discussion of the proposed law this time before the board passed it unanimously.

In the past, Young said at meetings that the law would place severe restrictions on his light display and sully a holiday tradition. On one occasion, he even brought the owners of holiday light displays from as far away as New Jersey to speak on his behalf. But Young was not in attendance on Monday night.

I knew they were going to pass it … there was never any doubt in my mind from the very beginning,” Young said on Tuesday.

He said he has been in touch with the village over his lights display, as he has been the last couple of years. But he said he isn’t going to submit an application.

I said to them [that] I’m not applying for anything,” he said. “I’ve given up and let the chips fall where they may. I want to make a plan for this Christmas but I don’t plan on doing anymore reaching out to them.”

In his most recent plan, Young would have music and lighting on 20 of 32 nights between Dec. 6 and Jan. 6, between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. He also plans to place a collection box to raise money for charity, although the positioning of the box has led to disputes with the village.

While he wants to continue the tradition, Young said his battles with the trustees have worn him down.

“It used to be fun but it’s become aggravating,” he said. “It just becomes an ordeal, so I’m contemplating taking the year off and not having any lights this year, not because of the law but because I’m fed up.”

The board approved another local law that amended the issuance of a permit in the building construction code. All major and minor construction permits will expire one year after issuance unless the board finds sufficient reason to extend the permit. The amendment was spurred by a building project on Northern Boulevard that has gone on longer than the board would have liked.

Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at [email protected], by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.

About the author

Luke Torrance

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