North Liberty light display facing possible fines

"Santa House" lights up the night in North Liberty. Photo credit Joe Huisinga (CBS2/FOX28).

A holiday light display that’s has become somewhat of a Corridor tradition could face a big fine in North Liberty because the City says it can’t be on the public right of way between the sidewalk and the street.

The Santa house display shined bright in Coralville for decades but when its previous owners could no longer carry on the tradition Josh Covert picked it up.

“They were very receptive to the idea we met with them went out to dinner with them and now here it all is in our yard,” says Covert.

It is a stunning display of light with more than 100 lighted Santa’s of all sizes and lighted arches that line the sidewalk at 1655 Red Barn Drive.

Up until this point the display has had a warm reception from neighbors and the wider community.

“It's gorgeous you know and people come through and the little kids are happy they're smiling,” says neighbor Steve Gibbons.

On Monday Covert says he got an email from the city with a fine of $750 plus court costs.

So he reached out to the City Attorney.

“He said they sent me notice on December 13th which I have yet to receive anything in the mail from them,” say Covert.

This is not the first year he's had the display but it's the first time he's hearing from the city.

And word traveled fast, after outraged neighbors took to social media.

“We were upset about it that's just not right,” says Gibbons who learned of the dispute on the neighborhood Facebook group.

When asked about the situation the City provided this statement:

“City staff isn't asking that the display taken down, and we always look to amicably resolve issues. Like other cities, we require private property, such as landscaping, signs and decorations, to not be put on public property and the public right of way, including the area around sidewalks. This protects utilities, allows us to clear snow without damaging private property and speeds our response in cases of emergency.” Nick Bergus Communications Director, City of North Liberty.

Covert says he'll move everything he just wants to keep the arches that have become the most popular part of the display.

“Let me leave them here for the rest of the season,” exclaims Covert. “I mean it's only another week and I'll make different plans next year and maybe have them go through my yard and let people walk through that way but they just want them removed,” he says.

The display turns on by timer at 5:00 each evening and a surprising stream of cars and people come out to admire the lights.

Covert says he’s not sure what he is going to do yet but he belives that he will be fined for every additional day that he does not comply after 9:00 a.m. Wednesday.

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