By Michael Fitzpatrick
Despite the efforts of a neighborhood Grinch, there will be Christmas lights this year at the Cambridge Avenue home of Bob Mangan.
Mangan gained national media attention last year as word spread of his holiday lighting display that features more than 50,000 lights. In addition to the lights, Mangan’s yard features a plethora of holiday decorations, which range from inflatable Santas and snowmen to a manger scene.
But all that holiday cheer appeared to be jeopardy on Nov. 13 when Mangan returned home to find a notice on his front door informing he’d been cited by the city’s building department because the lighting display created obstructions on Mangan’s front sidewalk and tree lawn.
“I was really upset,” Mangan said. “And I knew where it came from.”
It turned out it was a neighbor who had turned in Mangan.
Mangan went up to city hall a few days later and talked about the lights with Mayor David Gillock, who decided to withdraw the citation and have the city look at rewriting the ordinance under which Mangan was cited.
Ultimately, if the city had upheld the citation Mangan would have been force to remove only the portion of the display on his sidewalk, which features lighted arches, as well as decorations on the tree lawn.
“That’s a big part of it,” Mangan said of the arches. “Personally, I wasn’t taking it down. If they were going to cite me every day until after Christmas, so be it,” he said. “But everything came out good.”
The city also could have opted to fine Mangan had it upheld the citation, and that would have cost him up to $150, he said.
Mangan said he knows which neighbor blew the whistle. He said when he confronted the neighbor the neighbor told him he had no problem with the lights, which can likely be seen from a NASA satellite, but instead was miffed about the increase in traffic that results from motorists driving up and down Cambridge to view the home.
To get the ball rolling, the neighbor told Mangan he sent a letter to a North Ridgeville councilman informing the council member that Mangan would keep the lights and accompanying Christmas music on until 3 a.m., which Mangan denies.
“Never, never,” Mangan said of the accusation. “It goes off at 10 p.m. during the week and 11 p.m. on the weekends. There was one time I forgot the music was on and I might have gotten a call, but that was like four years ago,” Mangan said.
Mangan thought the citation was unfair from the get go. He said he’s been decorating his home for 17 years and never heard a word from the city prior to this year. He said when he received the citation from the building department he immediately went around his neighborhood and talked with neighbors. He said almost all of them signed a petition he drew up, which stated they had no problem with the lights. The neighbor who did complain about the display declined to sign the petition, Mangan said.
Local media jumped on the Mangan story again this year after the Elyria Chronicle Telegram reported that the building department had cited him for his display. That led to several local TV stations following up with their own coverage of the story. All that attention will do nothing but bring even more traffic into the neighborhood in the form of motorists who want to see the display with their own eyes, Mangan said.
“From last year and coverage I got in the news I already expected it to double,” Mangan said of the number of people he thought would come to check out this display this holiday season. “Now it will probably be four times as bad.”
Mangan and his wife Lettie spend many a night greeting those who come to see the display. It not unusual for people to park on street and walk up to Mangan’s home for a better look. Mangan has no problem with that, and even offers those who venture into his yard to come in his garage where he he and Lettie hand out candy canes to children.
“I actually enjoy it. The more the merrier,” Mangan said.
Lettie also started an online petition after the citation was issued, which she said she was going to present to city officials if she and her husband had been forced to go in front of the building department to appeal the citation. She said when she started it she hoped to get a few hundred signatures, but thanks to social media and Facebook within four days more than 4,000 people had signed the petition supporting the lights.
Mangan, who works as a landscaper, said he starts decorating in mid October so as he can be done in time for Thanksgiving. He’s admits he’s spent upwards of $40,000 on lights and decorations and his electric bill last year was $700 for the month the display was up. Mangan also decorates the interior of his home, setting up a total of 29 trees as well as an assortment of other decorations.