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Phoenix’s ‘Arcadia Christmas House’ to go dark this holiday after complaints

(Yelp Photo)
LISTEN: Lee Sepanek, Christmas lights display

PHOENIX — The holiday season is just around the corner, but fans of one of the Valley’s most well-known traditions will have to find another way to spread Christmas cheer.

Lee Sepanek, also known as “Christmas Lee,” told KTAR 92.3 FM’s Mac and Gaydos that he will not decorate his Arcadia home after the city of Phoenix raised several issues with his display, most notably the traffic congestion it caused.

Sepanek had been decorating his home with hundreds of thousands of lights, animatronic windows and other holiday displays for about 30 years. People traveled across the state to get a glimpse of the display and it became quite the sensation on social media.

Sepanek said it took him about 9 to 10 hours a day for three months to decorate and he usually kept the display up from Thanksgiving to the new year.

Sepanek also said he sold hot cocoa and cookies to help offset some of the costs of the display, which run about $1,500 in electricity bills, on top of the $6,000 it costs to store the lights in a self-storage unit each year, according to a GoFundMe page.

In the past, the Christmas connoisseur said he was told by the Phoenix Police Department that only three complaints have been lodged over the display in the last 10 years, two of which were from the same person.

But this year, Sepanek said at least one of his neighbors raised an issue with the crowding that the display causes, which led to the city getting involved.

Sepanek said the city met with him last month to discuss how to address safety concerns by controlling traffic flow and preventing the blockage of driveways. He said the city wanted him to hire people to help direct traffic and have large vehicles, such as tour buses, to load and offload in a nearby parking lot.

In a statement, city spokeswoman Julie Watters confirmed that the city met with Sepanek to discuss safety issues after complaints were made to the police department, but said the city only gave him “suggestions” on how to combat traffic and did not issue any violations.

But Watters said Sepanek was not permitted to sell hot cocoa and cookies since he did not have a permit.

Sepanek said he told the city he would then just give the cocoa and cookies away, but said the city shot that idea down, citing a catering law. The Phoenix resident claimed since the city couldn’t bar him from putting up holiday lights, they instead hit him in his pockets.

However, Sepanek said he is not letting his lights go to waste: He said he will use the lights to decorate eight homes on his block, as well as erect a banner telling guests why he did not decorate his home this holiday.

He has also started a GoFundMe in an effort to obtain legal counsel to fight the city and fund the display for next year. The page has raised more than $1,800 of its $10,000 goal as of Thursday afternoon.

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