Sundial holiday lights issue headed to courtBy MEGAN PHILLIPS,
The Sundial Christmas light fight is going to court. Earlier this month, attorney Eddy Edwards, neighbor of Carol and Mike Richardson, filed a personal suit against the Richardsons through the Madison County Chancery Court.
“We have an attorney now,” Carol Richardson said. “We’re going to let him handle the legal aspects of it.”
Richardson said the couple tried to negotiate with Edwards, who was giving ultimatums they could not agree to.
“Things fell through during a time when we were filmed for the tv show (speculated to be the Great Christmas Light Fight)… He said he would file a lawsuit if we didn’t meet his demands, so we just said, ‘Go ahead.’ ”
Edwards said his primary request was that the Richardsons agreed to move the show outside of Sundial after 2018.
“If they would do that, that’s the main thing we were asking,” he said. “Our original hope was for them to move it out of Sundial after this year, but with the show, we were told they have to have it this year and next year.”
Edwards said he was never given an answer to that request.
“(I also) asked that they not do it every night and not do it on Christmas Eve, and we never got an answer on that… We’ll let the court decide whether they can keep doing it at all.”
Edwards’ lawsuit against the Richardsons included the production company for the contest.
“We’re going to the court to set a hearing date for our injunction,” Edwards said. “We think their involvement in it has spurred on the show to be bigger and give it more publicity, which will bring many more cars into the neighborhood and cause more traffic in the area…”
Earlier this month, the city created a traffic plan with the Richardsons’ show in mind, but Edwards said they’ve created a less official traffic plan in previous years that didn’t reduce congestion.
Richardson said the couple planned to begin showing the lights on schedule on Friday, November 24, the day after Thanksgiving, barring any legal action.
The show will run through December 27. Lights will be on Sunday through Thursdays from 5:30 to 9 p.m. and Friday through Saturdays from 5:30 to 10 p.m.
“We’ve reduced the number of hours (this year),” Richardson said. “We have a permit issued by the city, and we have to cut (the lights) off on time.”
The Richardsons have a Facebook page and a Web site and will post updates due to weather. The light show has been in Sundial for more than 15 years.
Edwards also appealed the Madison Board of Aldermen’s decision that the light show is not a nuisance, a case which will be overseen by the Madison County Circuit Court.
“When a citizen objects to an action taken by the city board, they have to appeal to the circuit court,” Edwards said.
This case is in direct response to the city’s declaration of the light show not being a nuisance as defined by both the Sundial and city ordinances.
“We think the city is wrong, so this is between us and the city,” Edwards said. “That appeal has been made, and we’ll be filing more on it next week with specific objections. The circuit court will decide whether the city properly followed ordinances and gave (the Richardsons) a permit.”
Edwards’ second issue with the city is Madison’s issuance of the permit to the Richardsons
“The city has to issue a permit anytime somebody requests police be involved in an event within the city,” he said.
“One of the conditions is that activity not affect flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic and cause noisy conduct… The person applying for the permit must accept full responsibility for those involved.”
Edwards’ said his position is that the light show does materially change the vehicular and pedestrian flow of traffic and causes excessive noise.
“And on the permit issued, the Richardsons did not assume any liability of any actions of anybody attending.”
Edwards and the Richardsons have been long-time residents of Sundial. It was only four years ago when the show became bigger than ever.
“There’s a misconception that I am opposed to the light show per se. Our opposition is to that size of a production bringing thousands of cars into our neighborhood,” he said. “We are all for them setting it up somewhere in a public setting or in a private setting, where it wouldn’t be running traffic through a subdivision or neighborhood.”
Edwards said that in 2013 and 2014, the light show expanded from people just decorating their yard a little more extravagantly than others to posting on Facebook, having a Web site and entering contests.
“That’s really the objection, not the show itself.”