Glowing Santa’s gotta go
ASPEN – Pitkin County is reminding residents that Christmas is over. That means no more glowing Santa on the front porch and no more bright red lighted trees. Widespread noncompliance with the county’s lighting laws has prompted officials to crack down on those still lighting up the night with holiday cheer.
The city’s land-use code allows lights on houses up through March 1, but the county requires taking down lights after Jan. 30. That means houses on Red Mountain and other areas close to Aspen are often breaking the rules. County Code Enforcement Officer Carrington Brown said he has been getting an earful of complaints that don’t seem to end.”When I get a complaint, and I’m 99 percent complaint-based, then I’ll follow up,” Brown said. “It runs the gamut: Sometimes a neighbor will call me about their neighbor, another time someone will look up at Red Mountain and want to do something about it.”
Enforcement rarely takes the form of legal action, but it can be a remedy in a dire case, he said Most of the complaints, he said, have come from motorists passing by on Highway 82. One local homeowners’ association member said those complaining should have more pressing concerns. “Oh brother, there’s people starving,” said Hilary Burgess, secretary of the Woody Creek Homeowners’ Association, who admitted to twinkling snowflakes in her front yard. “People need to take up knitting or some other hobby. Tell them to get into the four-lane debate or to talk about the football coach.”
If Burgess lived in Aspen, the snowflakes wouldn’t be in conflict with the land-use code. In fact, Aspen’s code has a provision that allows an exemption for year-round lights if there is a “demonstrable community benefit.”It’s unclear whether there is community benefit to the big red trees on Red Mountain, but either way, Brown said he’s trying to remedy the light pollution and maintain the night sky. “This problem is bigger than I thought,” Brown said. “The light code is interesting because what one person does can affect their neighbor. Christmas tree lights, we all think they’re pretty, but …”