MARCO ISLAND — The holiday lights on North Barfield Drive in Marco draw a lot of attention — perhaps a little too much attention, neighbors say.
Chief of Code Compliance Eric Wardle said this year is the first time he can recall a code complaint regarding holiday lights.
An unidentified neighbor reported to code officer Liz Carr that the noise and lights spilling over to their yard from 548 N. Barfield Dr. made sleeping for their children nearly impossible.
Wardle checked on the property, owned by Linda Deppen and decorated by her son Tim Smither and friend Jerry Haas, saying he didn’t plan to do much.
“I’m not a Scrooge,” Wardle said.
Neighbor Andrea Grant has a sign in her front yard that read “turn off lights.” The sign was to encourage people viewing the display next door to turn of their headlights so they didn’t come streaming into her daughter’s bedroom window.
“It’s not my neighbors. They’re great. They try to go out there and tell people to turn off their (car’s head) lights and to not make too much noise ... People are just excited, I guess. It’s the holidays.
“It’s been crazy. People drive by and honk and scream. They open their car doors, blare the radio and sit out on their car hoods,” said Grant.
She described it as a tailgating party on her street since the lights went up around Thanksgiving.
Grant hoped her neighbors would win the 2009 Marco Home and Business Decorating Contest — which they did on Saturday.
“They draw a lot of attention, too much attention, but I think they like it ... They deserve to win. I don’t think anybody does it up like they do.”
Neighbors reported disturbances from visitors to the display, which includes a helicopter on the roof, large snow globes and lights that play to the radio station 107.5 FM.
Traffic jams and one accident were reported on the street, although officials say the car crash, which occurred around noon on Thursday, didn’t seem to be caused by the lights, which were off at the time.
Grant said she’s not so sure because people stop in the middle of the street to look at all times of day.
Deppen said she has one neighbor, who calls her family the “Griswolds,” referring to the family in the 1989 National Lampoon movie “Christmas Vacation,” where the family has a disastrously funny holiday.
With similar affection, Deppen calls this neighbor “The Grinch,” as he reportedly called police to remove Christmas carollers from the street.
In contrast, Deppen described the neighbor across the street, in a home owned by Steven Profaco according to county records, as “sweet ... He dealt with a lot of abuse to his property from the viewing public.”
Profaco has a prime piece of viewing real estate to see the lights synchronized to music — at least until Wednesday or Thursday when he finally put an end to it.
This reporter wasn’t able to get in contact with Profaco directly.
On several visits to the street, vehicles were parked in his circular driveway, in the swales in front of his house and according to neighbors, the breaking point came when his lawn was getting wrecked by vehicles.
Then, a fence of caution tape up was erected around Profaco’s corner lot, preventing anyone from pulling in his driveway, parking on the swale or parking on his lawn.
Chairman of the decorating committee, Dave Rice, was concerned about safety after the caution tape left drivers, including the judge’s brigade, no where to pull over and view the lights.
“I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but safety is most important,” Rice said the day before judgement day for the contest.
The judges and viewing public adjusted and Profaco’s property remains protected as the lights will stay up through the first week of January, Deppen said.
“We didn’t do it to win. We enjoy it ... I know it’s been a nuisance on a main road, but most people take it into consideration.” It’s Christmas after all.
Wardle said he understood Profaco protecting his property. All three neighboring properties had something in the swales, technically violating city code. Deppen’s lights did legally spill over more than one candle’s worth of light onto the neighboring lots, as is the case with most holiday decorations, but code officials weren’t going to bust people for being festive around the holiday.
A business in Naples, however, isn’t so lucky. The City of Naples code department is taking the owner of the Back Store, 198 Ninth Street, in front of their code board for displaying a Santa on an incline board, similar to what one would see at a chiropractor’s office. Naples’ notice of violation contends the display, but not Santa, is a business sign and therefore not permitted by code.
So far, there are no loud moans of “bah, humbug” from officials on Marco.
“It’s worked out pretty well — except for the Grinch,” Deppen said.
Reporter's note: "The Grinch" is not identified by real name, address or description in this report.