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.”