Phx demands lead to end of 30-yr. Christmas light display

Friday, November 24, 2017
Chris Woodward (

Christmas tree ornamentA number of organizations in Arizona are fighting to get the lights turned back on for a famous Christmas display. (Story updated on Tuesday, November 28)

For more than 30 years, Lee Sepanek and his wife, Patricia, have been doing an extensive light display at their home in Phoenix.

"If you've ever seen the movie Christmas Vacation, it's Clark Griswold times 10," explains Jon Riches, who serves as general counsel for the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute. "It's become a real tradition for people in Phoenix to come by and enjoy the holiday display, and people throughout the state come from all corners to see it."

In October, city officials met with Sepanek and placed what Riches calls a series of unattainable demands on him regarding the display.

"They also told him that he was not allowed to serve hot cocoa or cookies to visitors of the display," Riches informed. "As a result, Lee got disheartened and canceled the display for this year, although assuming that the city does the right thing here, he intends to bring Christmas back in the years to come, so long as he is not facing enforcement action from Phoenix."

The Goldwater Institute and Rose Law Group are working on behalf of Sepanek to resolve the matter with the City of Phoenix.

"We are in the process of talking with the city to make sure that we can get everything resolved so that Lee knows he can go forward with his display without any more threats from the city," the legal expert assured.

UPDATE: After this story was posted, OneNewsNow heard from the office of City Manager Ed Zuercher, which responded (in part):

"There are no city rules or regulations that prevent homeowners from displaying holiday lights. The city cannot and does not regulate private property holiday light displays .... This is not an issue between the homeowner and the city. This is an issue between the homeowner and his neighbors. The city has not enforced or issued notice of violations, nor discouraged the use of the lights. The homeowner decided on his own to not display lights on his house this year. To continue his tradition of showcasing holiday lights, he’s welcome to hang the lights up and turn them on."

Zuercher's office also contacted Mr. Sepanek via email, clarifying his communication with city staff and telling him "there is nothing prohibiting you from displaying holiday lights at your home, this year or in the future" - and explaining that "selling food or retail items is not allowed in your residential neighborhood zoning district, but giving those items away ... is something you are free to do if you wish."

11/28/2017 - Update added

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