What to Know
- A New Jersey community is upset about the township's decision to ban a popular holiday lights display put on each year by Bill Epp
- The township administrator says the issue is the cost of police overtime responding to crowds around the complicated display
- Epp says he hopes to try again next year
A New Jersey town's decision to ban a popular holiday lights display for the second year in a row is upsetting neighbors.
Bill Epp has put on the dazzling display of holiday lights and music on his front lawn in Wall Township for years, delighting crowds and raising money for children with special needs. But this year, for the second year in a row, it's lights out for the holiday spectacular.
"The letters we get from people -- I mean, I had people crying to me that this is the only Christmas their kids have had," said an emotional Epp. "It's just a shame."
"Everybody loves it," said neighbor Susan McDonagh. "People come from up north."
"It's upsetting," added Leesa Adam. "It's such a family event. Every year, people look forward to it. My children invite friends over. I don't see the problem with it. And I live on this street."
The problem, says the Wall Township administrator, is that the show has outgrown its location. Jeff Bertrand said it's become a safety issue, costing $10,000 in police overtime in 2015, the year before the township pulled the plug.
"I'm a big Christmas person. The last thing I want to do is not have this activity," he told News 4 New York over the phone Friday. "But when I've got my police department saying, 'Look, this is a major problem for us,' that's when I've gotta say, 'Look, guys, we can't do this.'"
Epp said his son and some of his engineering buddies started the project 11 years ago, and it has grown to a complicated computer-operated spectacular. Bertrand said the town tried to work with the display organizers to find another location, like a nearby Little League field with a huge parking lot across the street. But Epp said it's not that simple.
"They may think it's throwing a few lights around and running music, but it's nothing like that at all," he said. "We have pyrotechnics, we have underground wiring."
The organizers hired a lawyer to try to work with the township to make the display happen this year, but it doesn't look like it will. They say they have everything set up to go live with the flick of a switch, but it looks like they'll have to wait until next year to try again.
Epp is the second New Jersey homeowner battling the town this season to get a popular holiday lights display up and running. In Old Bridge, a New Jersey couple that's been putting on their display for 15 years, with more than 70,000 lgihts synchronized to music, is fighting against the $2,000-a-night security fee the town has imposed to put on the show. It was also an issue of police resources in that case.