Elmwood Village Christmas Light Controversy Continues

December 3, 2013 Updated Dec 3, 2013 at 6:27 PM EDT

By WKBW News

December 3, 2013 Updated Dec 3, 2013 at 6:27 PM EDT

BUFFALO (WKBW) The controversy over Christmas lights in the Elmwood Village continues, after the city sent out an email full of requirements, making many holiday light displays illegal. Now more business owners are speaking out, and the City of Buffalo is defending its actions in the name of public safety.

"Everybody knows that is sort of a signature of the Elmwood Village, is that you see those lights coming down the street. So we just are looking for a way to work together with the city to make sure that those stay up this holiday season," Carly Battin, Executive Director of the Elmwood Village Association said.

Even in daylight, the Christmas lights hung along Elmwood Avenue are the source of debate. The City of Buffalo sent out a list of requirements for lighting displays, including mandates that they be hung by electricians, be more than 14 feet above the ground, and requiring liability insurance.
That deemed many of these lights illegal.

"Never an intention to remove any lights. We want to make sure that people understand what it takes to be for public safety out there. And that was it, that was really all it was about," Public Works Commissioner Steve Stepniak said.

That didn't sit well with many businesses who paid for the lights and put them up on their own.

"It's tough enough to do business down here and the city is involved with every aspect of your business, and you never thought that Christmas lights would be something that they would be involved with, so it's a little aggravating as a business owner," Pasteurized Tees owner Michael Bowen said.

"I don't think the city is stepping on toes here. I think the city is just making sure they enjoy those holidays and make sure they do it in a safe manner. That's all this is about," Stepniak countered.

Stepniak says these requirements are nothing new, but neither are the business-hung lights.

"We've been doing this for a long time, the city's always been aware of it, so I think there was a sense of surprise and frustration from business owners," Carly Battin added.

Many who shop along this part of Elmwood Avenue also weighed.

"They should allow the lights to be on, because it brings people down and helps businesses," Robert O'Donnell said.

"I like them, and since the businesses pay for the lights and put them up, I think the city should let them stay and pay for the power," Carl Rubeck added.

"I think it sounds a little crazy to me. Christmas comes once a year, there's a lot of horrible things in the world, and the lights add to (the street), they should find a way to work around it," Tim Caplin said.

In regards to power, some of these lights are attached to city outlets, one of the main reasons for the list of requirements by the city.

As of Monday, the Public Works Commissioner said they have not asked anyone to remove their lights, and that they will work with businesses to make sure they are in compliance before taking any action.