Fighting the Grinch Called the HOA in Hilarious Video

Fighting the Grinch Called the HOA in Hilarious Video

This Christmas may go down as the year of the Home Owner’s Association — that dreaded Grinch accused of dousing Christmas from coast-to-coast. While there have been high profile cases of HOA’s killing off Christmas lights in Idaho, Washington, and Indiana the best response to a HOA has to be this video made by a man disputing a complaint from his HOA that he put out his garbage can too early.

Justin Porter says he received a nasty gram from his HOA for putting his garbage can in his driveway on a Wednesday, the night before garbage pick up on Thursday morning. So in response he went to Youtube and made this hilarious public response (warning: some graphic language in this festive video):

Sometimes Christmas Lights Go Too Far

Sometimes Christmas Lights Go Too Far

FoxNews is reporting a new light fight in the early War on Christmas 2015. In the little town of Hayley, Idaho a man who traditionally erects an epic light display reportedly received a letter from his homeowner’s association telling him that his display would be offensive to non-Christians.

We get behind most of these stories but on this one we smell a rat.

First of all, the man’s display does sound like it would be a problem in just about any neighborhood. In addition to turning night into day with thousands of lights the display of Jeremy Morris includes a 22-voice choir and a live Nativity featuring Dolly the Camel.

Second of all, this is a new resident bound by an agreement with a home owner’s association. Have you ever signed a contract with a home owner’s association? Basically you waive most of your property rights when you do so. Any kind of exterior decorating will fall under the jurisdiction of association. That is just common sense.

“Your event will be offensive to the senses and will interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of your neighbors’ private property rights,” an attorney representing the home owner’s association evidently told the Morris’.

Of course, Morris uses all the usual and very valid arguments of religious freedom.

But we’re skeptical in cases like this. Just as with the Hyatt Extreme Christmas display in Florida we tend to simply take the WWJD approach to these issues and declare that real Christians are good neighbors first.

Dolly the Camel does not seem like a good fit in a typical residential neighborhood.

Florida City Takes Light Enthusiasts to Court

Florida City Takes Light Enthusiasts to Court

In the most famous Christmas light fight in America things are about to get really ugly — if they weren’t ugly enough already. The City of Plantation, Florida has imposed every warning, fine and ordinance it can but the Hyatt Extreme Christmas display has not only endured it has grown larger. So the city is going to court to prove its case. According to local media a judge will hold a hearing on the matter June 4th.

Other Christmas light enthusiasts from around the country are watching and starting to sound off. Lon Wilkins, from Henderson, Nevada, operates a popular local display in his own neighborhood. “I was supportive of the Hyatts at first because they seem like nice people just trying to celebrate Christmas,” Wilkins said. “But as we have watched this unfold it is clear they have been more about getting bigger and gaining more attention. They seem to have forgotten that the central message of Christmas is peace. If they cannot make peace with their own neighbors what are they all about anyway? I think it is all very sad.”

The case is important because Christmas lights on a much smaller scale have become an issue in many communities and home owner associations across the country. During 2014 we documented several instances where even simple displays of Christmas were disputed by local ordinance. If the City of Plantation case against Hyatt Extreme Christmas is successful it may fuel further lawsuits against Christmas light lovers.

Plantation Mayor Diane Veltri Bendekovic, who celebrates Christmas, said she is concerned for the neighbors who she said are forced to flee their homes during the holiday season.

“Who is dealing with all the madness again? Us,” said neighbor Dolly Imbert. “We have to go in and out of our houses. Where are my rights? It’s not a normal situation. This is insane. It should not be happening, period.”

The Hyatts were featured in 2013 on “The Great Christmas Light Fight” for their display that features moving characters, a movie screen showing a loop of films, a snow-blowing machine, flashing lights, and an occasional live Santa and “reindeer.” Judges praised the “amusement-park” quality of their presentation, but the Hyatts lost the $50,000 competition to a family from Decatur, Ga.

The city filed a lawsuit in Broward Circuit Court in February 2014 to get the display halted. That case was halted due to an injunction filed by the Hyatts last November. That case gets its day in court now and observers predict the Hyatts are going to lose.

Bendekovic said she wanted the legal action to continue.

“What happens if the settlement falls through?” she said. “We’re here to get the holiday display to [one compatible with] a residential one.”

The Hyatts don’t speak to the media unless it is to promote their display. They continue to make pleas and accusations on their website and Facebook pages. Some speculate that any lawsuit will be challenged in court and that the display will return this Christmas and for seasons to come as the battle takes place in the courts.

Local support for Hyatt Extreme Christmas is difficult to peg. While the display is no doubt wildly popular and draws huge crowds some think most of the monetary and vocal support for the Hyatts come from those who do not live in Plantation and who do not actually have to contend with the issue in their daily lives.

For the Hyatts the argument lies simply with their right to do what they want on their own property — an old argument without much teeth in countless cases with municipalities with zoning laws. The first amendment arguments actually make more sense — or would, if the city were demanding that no display be allowed at all. But that clearly is not the case as Plantation has said all along it just wants a Christmas light display that is on the level with other residences in the area.

Despite the debate the real costs are running up on all sides. Plantation claims it has spent thousands of dollars for police overtime and traffic control while the Hyatts are working under the burden of imposed daily fines of $250 and other fees in excess of $7000. Now attorney fees for both sides are added to the equation.

For the average home Christmas light enthusiast the case is being watched warily.

“We’re concerned about this case,” said Wilkins, who participates actively online with other Christmas light enthusiasts at PlanetChristmas.com, “Neighbor relations are an important part of what we do every year. There are ways to deal with this and some become so big or so popular that they have to get moved for the enjoyment of more people ultimately. Cities and residents can work together. But it appears all or nothing in the case of Plantation and the Hyatt display. It gives all of us a bit of a black eye because it makes all Christmas light enthusiasts look a little nutty and extreme. Most of us are not.”

Extreme Christmas Display on the Ropes

Extreme Christmas Display on the Ropes

The ongoing feud between the City of Plantation, Florida and the mega-Christmas light display known as Hyatt’s Extreme Christmas could be coming to a head as the City has now levied fines and filed a lawsuit against the Hyatts. The display has made news for years as it has sought out greater media attention in its fight against the city. Critics of the Hyatts now tell Defend Christmas.com the city has the display “on the ropes” as it has refused settlement offers from the Hyatts and seeks to increase fines for ongoing code violations and pressure on the city budget for added police presence and traffic support.

The feud centers on the fact that the display is popular and draws thousands of visitors to a residential area not designed to handle high traffic.

Complaints from neighbors about the traffic, trash, noise and vandalism in the area because of the popularity of the display has led to court battles and ongoing media outbursts between the two parties.

It is a bitter feud short on Christmas spirit: the Hyatts have led local efforts to oust the mayor in campaigns (calling her “anti-Christmas”) while the local police department has accused the Hyatt’s of being irresponsible.

Earlier this spring the Sun Sentinel reported that the Hyatts offered to cut back the size of their display from more than 200,000 lights to a “meager” 50,000 lights and to remove a Ferris wheel on the front lawn that gives endless rides to stuffed animals. They also offered to stop promoting their lights on the Internet if the city would waive the fines for code violations.

The City of Plantation immediately refused the offer.

The Hyatts appear to have once again dug in their heels, moving their website to a new domain and renewing their efforts on social media to gather support for online petitions supporting their cause. They claim the city unfairly imposes fines, blocks roads and detracts from their efforts to raise money for charity.

While it remains to be seen if the Hyatt display will return for Christmas 2015 neighbors and critics of the display are thinking the city will continue to increase the pressure on the Hyatt family to quit.

Police Call Hyatt Christmas Irresponsible

Police Call Hyatt Christmas Irresponsible

The ever-escalating Christmas light fight between the city of Plantaion, Florida and the Mark Hyatt Family took another odd turn as the city police have taken the rare step of issuing a public rebuke:

“In their unbridled zeal to promote themselves and their ‘Extreme Christmas’ holiday display in their single family residential neighborhood and without any regard for public safety or the complaints of their neighbors, the Hyatts are acting irresponsibly, and are causing the City to take necessary and well considered steps,”

Reaction on all sides of the issue have been as extreme as the display. The Hyatts have plenty of defenders and detractors from the local area. This was gathered from various social media outlets:

— “Bah humbug to the city of plantation, you really out of your mind thinking there is a problem, you should bee dealing with the cry baby neighbors instead, they are the problem.”

— “Well thank God they are not my neighbors. Imagine the traffic you have to fight to get home every day. Makes sense. The house looks like an amusement park. They are not concerned about the disabled and the elderly. BS.”

— “Again, move in next to these people. Enjoy watching strange men peeing in your front yard…..”

— “We enjoyed going last year, and I think we’ll go again this year. It’s a beautiful display. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Hyatt!!”

— “Seriously though, some people have NO IDEA that they are creating a nuisance for their neighbors. They only see their own “good” intentions, and as such utterly disregard the consequences for the people who live near them. That’s a sign of stupidity.”

— “What does a ferris wheel have to do with Christmas ? The house just has a bunch of electrical hazards in front of it. Ferris wheels need permits I think?”

— “Unless there has been some incident that has caused a danger to the public, then taking “proactive measures” by the police department and calling it such, is simply the opinion of an over zealous police chief. Sounds like the grounds for a lawsuit. I like it… I think I’ll drive by this house in support of their display.”

— “Such a beautiful display! And collecting donations of food for the needy at the holidays from those who visit is truly in the spirit of the season. But it seems some neighbors must have lodged complaints in order for police to be present. PLEASE do not blame the police for doing the job they are told to do- I’m certain that, to a person, NONE of these officers want the display removed. I pray the display will remain and the Hyatt family can continue spreading good cheer in the Christmas season.”

To all this we simply say: Peace on earth, goodwill to all men.

Hyatt Extreme Christmas Elevates Fight Against City

The Hyatt family will not pony up the cash to pay for extra police to direct traffic and keep the peace caused by the disruption of city life by their Christmas display but they can pay for sponsored posts on Facebook urging Plantation, Florida voters to replace the mayor. From the looks of things it appears the City’s action to get control over the situation and placate the complaining neighbors of the Hyatt’s must be working:

Extreme Florida Christmas Display Irritates Neighbors

Extreme Florida Christmas Display Irritates Neighbors

Hyatt’s Extreme Christmas is known nationwide. The brilliantly lit display turns a Plantation, Florida home into a winter spectacle worthy enough for national exposure on a TV reality show competition last Christmas — which they lost. But the Hyatt family is hoping to win something bigger than a TV show prize: the right to keep their lights on. For nearly a year they have been fighting the city of Plantation via a lawsuit — a trial that now won’t happen until spring of 2015. That means for 2014 the show goes on — and the bubbling cauldron of contention boils ever more as neighbors and the city stew over the chaos the display generates.

“Who is dealing with all the madness again? Us,” said neighbor Dolly Imbert. “We have to go in and out of our houses. Where are my rights? It’s not a normal situation. This is insane. It should not be happening, period.”

“For me this is a public safety concern, it really is,” said Police Chief Howard Harrison. “You can’t have pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic functioning on the same strip of land. That is a disaster waiting to happen. People and cars don’t mix. Without any control, there is going to be a problem.”

For years, the city tried to strike a balance between the property rights of the Hyatts and their neighbors, who complained about the crush of cars and the noise.

In 2012, the Hyatts scaled back the hours of their display and increased the number of volunteers to direct traffic.

In 2013, the city forced the Hyatts to stop using a roving spotlight, saying it violated city code.

Then the city put up “no parking” signs on Old Hiatus Road, but people ignored them, even parking under them. Most of the signs were vandalized and tossed into a canal, but they were replaced.

For the last few nights of the display in December 2013, Harrison paid three officers $5,000 in overtime to shut down Old Hiatus Road to keep hundreds of people each night from wandering in traffic to get to the Hyatts.

People parked at the nearby Grace Bible Church Plantation, at 901 NW 112 Ave., and made the eight-minute walk.

With no other remedy, Harrison said the road will be closed again this year and cars will be directed to the church.

But church officials said they aren’t promising their entire lot will be open to the public.

“Last year they only needed it for four nights, this year [the police department] asked for a whole month,” said Pastor Matt Stanchek. “Some nights there will be a conflict. It depends what’s going on at the church.”

For instance, when the church has its Christmas party, people are going to have to find somewhere else to go, he said.

Harrison said the no parking orders for the east side of Old Hiatus will be enforced. People who try to park on the street outside of the roadblock will be ticketed.

The Hyatts claim the city is harassing them at every turn. The most recent complaint involves the exhibit’s Santa’s Workshop section. “It’s a simple structure just for the elves, if you will,” said Mark Hyatt. “The city would like me to have a permit to build that.”

Regulators Going After Christmas Lights

Regulators Going After Christmas Lights

Since 1980 more than 250 people have been killed when decorative Christmas lights malfunction, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. So, the same folks that took the .25 cent light bulb and turned it into a $5 light bulb that never lasts as long as they promised and doesn’t save the energy they guaranteed, now want to change all your Christmas lights, too.

The new rules would apply to everything from Christmas tree lights to the light sculptures and animated figures of Santa Claus and his reindeer that illuminate front yards across the country.
Decorative lighting that does not meet new standards will be considered hazardous, the agency said.

“Consumers can be seriously injured or killed by electrical shocks or fires if seasonal and decorative lighting products are not made using minimum wire size, sufficient strain reliefs, or over-current protection,” the agency wrote.

No word on whether or not they plan to regulate the old Christmas lights and decorations many have been using since the 1950s.

Christmas Displays Brings Charges of Harassment

Christmas Displays Brings Charges of Harassment

A Rockland, Massachusetts man says he is being wrongfully bullied by his town because he has a passion for Christmas and displaying blowmolds, Christmas lights and other festive decorations. A disgruntled neighbor, who happens to be the town collector, is reportedly behind the effort to fine the man repeatedly for running a business out of his home in retaliation for the holiday displays he puts up.

Local newspaper The Enterprise shows David Balch in front of his Rockland home and tells the story of his journeys to bring new decor items into his collection. Those pieces he does not need or want he routinely sells to other collectors.

Balch likens his hobby to occasionally holding a yard sale to clear out unwanted items and that it isn’t a business at all.

But those claims have done little to prevent a town zoning enforcement officer from observing Balch’s transactions with those who visit him to purchase unwanted items. Twice Balch has been fined $300 for violating zoning regulations that ban businesses in residential areas.

Balch contends it is all about the neighbor, Judy Hartigan, and has even set up a Facebook page detailing their long ongoing dispute. Additional photos of Balch’s display can be found on the Facebook page. Balch has lived in the home for over a decade and claims Hartigan has complained about his Christmas display many times. He feels he is being harassed by the town and that Hartigan is instigating it.

    Florida Christmas Display Gets Sued

    Florida Christmas Display Gets Sued

    The now famous Hyatt Extreme Christmas display is being taken to court. The City of Plantation, Florida is suing the Hyatts, calling their display a public nuisance. The family Christmas display held each year on their home property has gained fame for its holiday spirit, traffic and crowds during the season and for the ongoing feud with city officials the rest of the year.

    It appears the city of Plantation has had enough and is taking the gloves off.

    The city filed a complaint in Broward Circuit Court seeking an injunction to the “nuisance” display. The complaint, filed late Friday, called the Hyatt house in Plantation Acres a “holiday spectacle” with its “larger than life commercial size display” that takes three months to assemble. The city also said the display has a “negative impact” on the community.

    “The display is incompatible and inappropriate for a residential neighborhood,” said Mayor Diane Veltri Bendekovic. “The city considers the display to be a nuisance which must be abated to a nature and size compatible with the Hyatts’ residential neighborhood.”

    Mark Hyatt emailed council members last week stating he was “disappointed” they would pursue court action.

    “This is a Plantation tradition has done nothing but bring a positive light on our city,” he wrote. “There has never been a safety problem, only the one created by the mismanagement of last year on the city and police department part.”

    The Hyatts have been in the news constantly over this issue. The city mayor famously dubbed the conflict a local version of “Hatfields and McCoys” last year. Neighbors have testified against the Hyatts for years begging for relief from the chaos the display generates in the neighborhood.

    In emails sent to DefendChristmas.com over the course of the past three months people claiming to be neighbors have insisted they are not anti-Christmas.

    “We love Christmas just as much as the next guy,” a neighbor told us. “But Christmas is also peace and we want to enjoy that, too. They like the attention. They like the crowds. They like the media fawning over them. And that’s fine if they were located somewhere else. But they are here, in our yards, blocking our driveways and disturbing our peace. The city has to do something because the Hyatts don’t have the decency to be good neighbors.”

    The Hyatts did scale back the hours of their display and removed a moving spotlight. The city tried to convince the Hyatts to hire off-duty detail to control the crowds, but they declined. So the city placed “no parking” signs on the major street near their home; people ignored the signs, even parked under them, and then scurried to their cars when police showed.

    In December, the frustrated police chief paid three officers overtime to shut down the street to keep people from wandering in traffic to get to the Hyatts. People parked at a nearby church and made the eight-minute walk. Police Chief Howard Harrison said the city spent $5,000 for police overtime plus another $300 for crews to pick up trash afterward.

    Hyatt’s attorney, Richard Skeen of Hollywood, did not return a message left with his secretary.

    City officials said going to court was last resort, but felt compelled to take action, especially since Hyatt posted on his Facebook page in January that “we are busy planning even more fun things this year for Hyatt Extreme Christmas!”

    Mayor Tells Family to Take Down Christmas Decor on Christmas Eve

    Mayor Tells Family to Take Down Christmas Decor on Christmas Eve

    According to local media the mayor of one New Jersey town knocked on a citizen’s door on Christmas Eve and asked the family there to remove Christmas decorations allegedly found offensive by another neighbor.

    Working with neighbors the Alvator family of Tenafly, New Jersey set out 300 decorative luminaries to celebrate Christmas. They claim to have cleared the action with local fire and police departments ahead of time.

    “Our neighbors, from all different backgrounds, sent their children out to help fill the bags and light the candles early in the evening on Christmas Eve. We loved it. We thought it was a great sense of community,” said Scott Semone.

    But by the time they sat down to a Christmas dinner around 9pm the mayor was knocking on the door and asking that the luminaries be removed. He claimed a neighbor a few doors down was offended by the candles and that he, being Jewish, understood how this neighbor felt.

    “It had nothing to do with religion. It was about bringing people in our neighborhood closer together,” Jason Alvator said.

    Gay Christmas Lights Dividing Italy

    Gay Christmas Lights Dividing Italy

    The gay rainbow-flag theme for the Christmas lights on Rome’s main shopping street that were switched on Friday, December 6 have sparked an unholy row in the Eternal City.

    City assemblywoman Imma Battaglia said she and mayor Ignazio Marino had decided to send a message with the multi-colored lights, which ripple for a kilometer and a half (0.9 miles) of the bustling Via del Corso.

    Battaglia, who also leads a gay rights campaign group, said the lights were intended to be against homophobia following the suicide of a gay teenager in the city.

    “That is how we came up with the rainbow flag idea,” said Battaglia, who is from the leftist Sel party, but added that they could also be seen as a peace symbol.

    That did not sit well with the opposition in the Italian capital’s assembly, particularly the far-right Fratelli d’Italia (Italian Brothers) party.

    “The idea is provocative and ideological. There should be an Italian tri-colour instead,” Fabrizio Ghera, an assemblyman from the party, said earlier.

    The Italian flag colours were used in 2011 to mark the 150th anniversary of Italian unification, while the lights were white monochrome for Christmas last year.

    The head of the company behind the installation, Laura Rossi International, sought to defuse controversy on Friday, saying the lights would now be dedicated to the late anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.

    “This way the message of love, tolerance, unity and sharing will become stronger,” Rossi said.

    We wonder if Italy has forgotten that Christmas lights are about Christmas, not political debates.

    Letter Condemns Light Display

    Letter Condemns Light Display

    A Newton, Ma. light display has drawn a nasty anonymous letter of complaint calling a Christmas display tacky and telling a Christian family “many people do not wish to see such a flagrant display of your beliefs”

    The home glows with holiday cheer: Santa, snowmen, baby Jesus in a manger. For the Hunter family it’s an electric display of the Christmas spirit, but someone sent them a letter saying otherwise.

    “Not everybody in the neighborhood is Christian and many people do not wish to see such a flagrant display of your beliefs,” said Kelly Hunter, who received the complaint.

    The letter was signed only “your neighbors.” The person who wrote it complained that the trimmings are tacky.

    “You are of course free worship as you believe, celebrate as you please, and free to have bad taste, but please have the good sense to do these things in the privacy of your own home. Sincerely, your neighbors.” Kelly Hunter read.

    “We’re not anti-anything. We are Christian, we are celebrating our faith. People are free to do that,” said Hunter.

    “Coward, wish they could have said who it is, sign your name to it,” Kelly said.

    The display started 40 years ago by the children’s grandfather.

    “It really means just keeping my grandfather’s legacy alive, and I think it means a lot to the neighborhood too,” said Caleb Hunter.

    The Hunter family says they won’t let this letter put a sour note on their Christmas.

    “We have so much support; people are really showing their love,” said Kristen.

    The letter was postmarked from Boston, so the Hunters say they’re not entirely convinced it’s from one of their direct neighbors.

    Light Fight Goes Prime Time

    Light Fight Goes Prime Time

    The Hyatt Extreme Christmas display is having quite a year.

    They were the subject of a rare off-season dispute with local city officials and now they are headed to prime time to compete in a new reality series on ABC about Christmas lighting nuts enthusiasts.

    Kathy and Mark Hyatt — whose extravagant and controversial Plantations Acres (Florida) home display features hundreds of thousands of lights, a 20-foot Ferris wheel that gives stuffed animals rides and a snow-blowing machine — will compete on a new ABC reality show called “The Great Christmas Light Fight.”

    Felicia Carter-Aaron, a show producer, said the series will premiere Dec. 9. There are five episodes, and four families in each episode compete for $50,000.

    Show producers in a news release said the Hyatts were chosen from a nationwide search “based on their previous elaborate Christmas light displays, incredible choreography and over-the-top designs.” Michael Moloney and Sabrina Soto from “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” are the judges for the series.

    Producers said the families competing for money will work to transform their homes “in ways that would certainly make even Clark Griswold envious.” The finale will be Dec. 23.

    For the producers the scenario is rich with conflict possibilities: will the neighbors cooperate with the Hyatt’s this year? What about the city — will they come out guns blazing against them? Will the Hyatt’s survive to actually compete in the Great Christmas Light Fight?

    Tune in.

    New Jersey Light Fight to Involve Liberty Counsel

    New Jersey Light Fight to Involve Liberty Counsel

    Mark this one as another to watch for the 2013 season of the War on Christmas: According to The Cranbury Press of New Jersey resident Keith Shaw was cited for four violations of local ordinances given for what has become known as The Christmas Spectacular in Cranbury, New Jersey.

    The Christmas Spectacular is an annual lighting event in which Mr. Shaw conducts nightly light shows throughout the month of December on his front lawn at 128 N. Main Street. The shows are held at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. and are choreographed to music broadcast from a sound system located on Mr. Shaw’s property, according to his website, cranburychristmaslights.com. The display can also be viewed from the car, with the radio tuned to frequency 89.9 to hear the music.

    The month-long display is put on as a fundraiser for local charitable causes, according to the website, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to causes such as the He Cares, We Care food bank at Princeton Alliance Church in Plainsboro. In 2012, the light shows raised $6,870.56 for the food bank, according to the website.

    Of course, neighbors have complained about the show, which has a history dating back six years. They don’t like the traffic, the potential crime and vandalism plus the disruption to their neighboring properties.

    Shaw’s potential violations include the violation of the use restriction of a residential zone, and three sign ordinance violations that had to do with size, number of signs, and advertising a permitted use. Shaw’s home is located within the Village Hamlet Residential Zone in Cranbury Township and commercial activities are not permitted in residential zones. The Christmas light display solicits donations for charities, which is a commercial activity, according to the officer who issued the citations.

    When asked what his next step will be, Mr. Shaw said that he is unsure. He will be consulting with his attorneys at Liberty Counsel to decide where to go from here.

    With the board’s interpretation in hand, Mr. Shaw said that regardless of any changes he might have to make, the show will go on as scheduled. ”We’re definitely going to be doing a Christmas display this year,” he said.

    The announced inclusion of attorneys from Liberty Counsel is sure to elevate this fight in the media.