Homeowner wants Oakwood to offer seasonal permit to resolve holiday lights dispute

Oakwood isn’t likely to endorse a resident’s request to create a process for a seasonal permit allowing elaborate outdoor holiday lights displays in public right of ways.

Such a change would give residents the ability to include sidewalk archways in exhibits, which Jessica Myers said she did at her Wonderly Avenue home before Oakwood officials told her it was prohibited.

But Myers’ proposal is not an issue city staff would recommend, Oakwood Law Director Robert Jacques.

“Allowing private holiday décor or other structures in the public right-of-way, particularly on sidewalks, would interfere with the public use of the right-of-way,” Jacques said in an email Wednesday. “Public rights-of-way are not an open forum for this kind of activity.”

Myers told city council this week a similar dispute in Boardman near Youngstown was resolved by that city requiring the homeowner to obtain sufficient liability insurance to include the sidewalk.

“This will create a legally available permit process that is not only (for) Holiday Lights on Wonderly, but others to create magic and joy during this most wonderful time of the year,” she said.

Myers said she was told by the city earlier this year that her plans for the display — including the sidewalk arches — were acceptable.

Having seen similar lighted sidewalk archways on the street in previous years, Myers said she was encouraged she and her boyfriend Josiah Templeton were following proper procedures.

Then, Myers said, she received notice last month from the city that the archways had to be removed.

“We are not renegade decorators,” she told council. “If we were told we could not do something, we just would not have done that. Had we been told that what we proposed back in August was prohibited” she and Templeton would have worked with the city, as they’ve done on previous issues.

Myers’ request to council came after a Nov. 22 city denial of an application to extend the holiday lights display with archways over the sidewalk, Oakwood records show.

The project was estimated to cost $4,800 while Myers and Templeton were prepared to obtain a $1 million liability insurance policy, according to city records.

“We have noted that for the last two days, your clients have kept the lighted arches … out of the public sidewalk,” Jacques wrote last month in email to attorney Jacob Davis. “We thank you and them for this and consider the matter resolved.”

The exhibit has been a project for about five years for Myers and her family. It started at their previous home on Shroyer Road and has expanded in recent years, she said.

Despite the city’s decision, Myers said in an email Wednesday she is not too discouraged.

“Our hope is that we can create positive change in this community and ensure that people in Oakwood can celebrate Christmas like others do all across our country,” Myers said.

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