Folks furious after popular Christmas light show plans to shut down following neighbor complaint
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IONA — The Belnap Family Christmas Light Show has been a staple in Iona for more than a decade, but now it may be shutting down.
In May, homeowners Evan and Loann Belnap received a letter from the city of Iona informing them about a discussion that had taken place in a city council meeting the previous day. The council had received an official complaint about the residential light show and was informing the Belnaps about their options if they wanted to do the display again.
Mayor Dan Gubler told EastIdahoNews.com it was the city council’s decision to send the letter. He said the Belnap family wasn’t notified of the meeting in advance because the council was still deciding on what course of action needed to be taken to resolve the situation between the Belnaps and the neighbor who filed the complaint.
The letter explains the neighbor’s complaint centered around the traffic hazards, noise intrusion and car fumes caused by the large numbers of vehicles that drive and park in front of the Iona home at 3453 North 55th East between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
The Belnap Family Christmas Light Show is a free road-side event that’s been going on for 12 years at the Belnap home. Son Mike Belnap said there are around 250,000 LED lights, about six miles of extension chords and the lights are synchronized to music.
The family said it’s incredibly popular in eastern Idaho, which was why they were surprised by the city’s letter.
“(My parents) bent over backward for the neighbor, and we thought everything was good with the neighbor,” Mike said. “I love the light show. It is a nuisance, I’ll be first to admit it. I think anyone drives down there, especially on Christmas Eve. It’s like Michael Jordan showed up in the neighborhood and is signing autographs. (But) if that’s such a nuisance, you can drive (on another street to) avoid it.”
Mike said the Iona City Code definition of public nuisance explains that there needs to be more than one person complaining, and he said there’s only been one formal complaint. As far as they know the city has only received that one complaint.
But Gubler said there have been complaints for several years.
“This is not something that popped up out of the blue,” Gubler said. “This is an attempt to fix a problem that’s existed for a long time.”
In the letter, the city council gives the Belnap family three options on how they can proceed with the situation:
- Discontinue the show
- Provide a description of everything the show entails to every neighbor impacted by the show, and provide to the city the written approval from all the neighbors
- Consider other alternatives that the Belnap family could provide to the city and the city would work out the details with them.
“We offered three solutions that weren’t very well received,” Gubler said.
Mike said they didn’t announce their plans to end the light show in May because they were looking at alternative solutions to possibly continue the show. But they’ve since come to the conclusion none of the options are feasible, he said.
Before Gubler was mayor, Mike said the city and Evan and Loann worked together so there wouldn’t be any issues.
Gubler said they’ve had conversations with the Belnap’s in city council meetings on more than one occasion. In this situation, he said he hasn’t had any conversations with them directly, and said the letter was to get the Belnap’s to communicate with them.
“We’re free to do in our country what we choose to do on our property as long as that which we do doesn’t infringe on the rights of other people,” Gubler said. “I’m not taking sides here. I’m just trying to seek a solution with the two parties so that we can move forward.”
On Wednesday, the Belnaps announced their decision to end the show on social media, and the post went viral. EastIdahoNews.com has received a very large amount of correspondence regarding the closure – the majority from people who are angry with the city of Iona.
Gubler said he has seen the anger and hate directed at city officials on social media, but he believes people are more upset about what he said during a recording of a work meeting than the light show being “shut down.”
Gubler made comments about idling in his truck with his bright bulbs and almost being hit by “idiots” on the street with the lights.
“I tend to make jokes and whatnot. Sometimes I go too far. In this particular recording, I went probably too far,” he said.
Evan and Loann were asked to be at the next work meeting that’ll take place in about two weeks, but Mike said they are confused about what the meeting will be about because there’s really no other option for the show to go on.
“As the son and as a community member, I didn’t realize how big this was. I didn’t realize how many people that this affects,” Mike said. “We want to do this, but again, if one neighbor isn’t on board, we’re not going to continue, and the city told us not to. We love and appreciate the support.”
The public is welcome to attend a City Council meeting on Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at 3548 North Main Street in Iona to provide constructive comments about the situation within the time limits of that meeting.