Manchester Pa. Light Display Seeks Compromise

Some Manchester Township residents are a little leery of the Christmas season this year, and a neighbor’s seasonal light display, they say, is the reason.
This past season, a light and music show – Witte Wonderland – attracted drivers to Burning Tree Court.

When people visited the wonderland, vehicles lined the cul-de-sac and spilled around the corner to see the thousands of lights that filled Todd Witte’s yard.

Last year, the display boasted 21 mini-trees with 300 lights each, two 10-foot-tall PVC trees each with 6,400 lights, a 22-foot- tall tree, snowmen, 3,000 feet of lawn lights and numerous other lights and displays.

Also, the lights were synchronized to four songs that listeners could tune into on their vehicles’ radios.

Each show lasted about 20 minutes and repeated from 6 to 10 p.m. each night.

Since the Christmas season, some residents of the Outdoor Country Club neighborhood have been periodically visiting the Manchester Township supervisors meetings to ask for help with problems they said they experienced as a result of the show.

Neighbors complained of nightly traffic jams and driveways being blocked. Some complained that some drivers, after waiting in line for more than an hour, were unwilling to give up their places to let neighbors pass. Some spectators cursed and shouted at them, they said.

Witte said Friday that he had no idea that the show would take off to the level that it did.

He had hired a professional disc jockey in North Carolina to develop the show. The recorded portion of the show included language that participants should drive responsibly through the neighborhood, not block driveways, be courteous to neighbors and not leave trash, he said.

Witte was respectful of his neighbors by agreeing to requests to not to hold the show on three particular nights, including Christmas Eve, when they would be holding parties, he said.

Last week, two residents requested an update on what the township is doing to prevent problems this year.

Solicitor David Keiter said that case law has shown that municipalities do not have jurisdiction in this matter. However, case law also shows that, if the neighbors pursue a civil lawsuit, there can be success in regulating the degree of intensity of a show while not stopping it altogether, he said.

Supervisor Lawrence Young said that the township might be able to help with traffic control and request that the Northern York County Regional Police Department keep an eye on what’s going on in relation to the motor vehicle code. Also, more restrictive parking regulations could be put in place.

The township has requested that the light show be installed at Cousler Park. The event could benefit a charitable organization, such as the Northeastern Senior Center, whose representative appeared at the meeting to request support.

By moving the event to the park, people could view the show in an off-the-road setting, the event would benefit a larger audience, and the move would eliminate congestion on Burning Tree Court, manager David Raver said.

Witte said Friday that he plans to hold the show again this year and that it will run from about Thanksgiving to New Year’s.

He plans to revise the number of songs played and the length of the format to help alleviate traffic problems, he said.

Rather than having a 20-minute show with four songs, he plans to have only one song a night with a different song each night of the week. Each night, the show would repeat every two to three minutes, which would allow for drive-by viewing rather than sitting traffic.

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