Oakwood holiday lights display dispute has city, resident at odds



The city and an Oakwood resident are at odds over an extensive, holiday lights display that this year has extended beyond her property.

The exhibit now on Wonderly Avenue has been a project for about five years for Jessica Myers and her family.

It started at their previous home on Shroyer Road because her family “cherished the magic and nostalgia of Christmas,” according to an online petition seeking support for the display.

But arches added this year over the sidewalk in front of the home are in the public right-of-way, a city violation, Oakwood Law Director Robert Jacques said.

“People are free to decorate their property however they see fit,” he said. “The problem is they’re decorating property that is not theirs. They’re decorating the public sidewalk that we have to keep clear for pedestrian use.”



The full exhibit has yet to be finished and the arches have been moved for the time being, Myers said Monday. It is a costly and time-consuming project, but Myers said her family — boyfriend Josiah Templeton and two young daughters — do it for the community.

“I know a lot of families out there (that) they can’t afford to go to WinterFest. They can’t afford to go to Clifton Mill,” she said.

“And the community — the kids — they come around here. They take the candy canes. They get the pictures,” Myers added. “And to see them running around and being able to enjoy Christmas. I know for a lot of families, it’s one of the things they get to do … Just seeing their faces light up. That’s what it’s for.”

Myers said she was told by the city earlier this year that her plans for the display — including the sidewalk arches — were acceptable. Then, Myers said, she received notice last week from the city that if she didn’t remedy the violation by Monday, the city would.

As of Monday afternoon, the city had not taken any action, Jacques said.

“My understanding is that she believes she has some sort of permission to do this,” Jacques said. “There is no such permission … I’m not even sure what she is referring to.”

The online petition urges support “challenging this prohibition” to “continue illuminating hearts with its festive glow.”

The issue “is not just about us; it’s about preserving community spirit during a season that is meant for joy and unity,” the petition states. It had more than 1,800 signatures Monday afternoon with the goal of getting 2,500 names.

How the issue will be resolved is “still to be determined at this time,” Jacques said.

“We would certainly prefer that the resident remove this of their own accord,” he added. “We’ve asked them to do so. We don’t want to remove their property if we don’t have to.”

Myers said she would have gladly sought any permits in August when she contacted the city as part of “our due diligence.”

Myers said a similar issue in another Ohio city was resolved after a resident got a special events permit to have an archway with lights over a sidewalk. That is how the Youngstown suburb of Boardman resolved the issue, according to news reports.

Myers said she would be willing to do the same and buy any liability insurance necessary.

Jacques said he has been dealing an attorney retained by Myers and Templeton, but the special events permit is “not something that we’ve been approached with at this time.”

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