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Christmas light display goes on hiatus due to city ordinance in West Valley

Robbie Gowers' holiday display in West Valley City is toned down after he says he learned about an ordinance that prohibits parking within 5 feet of driveways, Tuesday. (Jeffrey Dahdah, KSL-TV)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

WEST VALLEY CITY — A popular holiday display is taking on a far more muted tone this year— to the point its owner says it feels 'dark' — over the owner's concerns about the implications of a city ordinance.

Robbie Gowers said he learned earlier this year about the ordinance that prohibits parking within 5 feet of driveways, potentially punishable by a parking citation.

He said when his Lights on Wakefield display is at its busiest, the issue practically becomes almost unavoidable.

The 60,000-light display has previously garnered media attention for its creativity and its support of the Mascot Miracles Foundation.

"I'd feel heartbroken if someone got a ticket up here that came up here to watch this," Gowers said.

West Valley City spokesman Sam Johnson said the ordinance was passed after the city received complaints and feedback about issues in various neighborhoods.

"Parking on their streets sometimes became rough because sometimes cars would be parked right at the edge of the driveway," Johnson said. "A bunch of requests were made to be able to give them a little bit of room to pull out safely out of a driveway."

Johnson said the ordinance had nothing to do with Christmas or neighborhood Christmas displays.

"We as a city support our residents being able to do that," Johnson said. "It brings joy to the community and we think it's a great idea."

Gowers said in his own conversations with police and city officials he contacted, he never received a consistent message about how drivers who stopped at his display would be treated.

He said he believed the safest thing to avoid issues for them was to not have the full display this year, while hoping something could be resolved in the next year to bring the popular neighborhood display back for 2022.

"We're heartbroken, we're frustrated, we wanted to do it," Gowers said. "We've tried not to dwell on it and do all of that with it and just be positive."

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