North Liberty homeowner gets fined over lights display - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

North Liberty homeowner gets fined over lights display

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An Iowa homeowner was surprised to see that he had been fined a large amount because of his Christmas decorations.

The North Liberty home at 1655 Red Barn Dr. is now known as the "Santa House" because you can find over 100 St. Nicks on the property. The home carried the tradition of a Coralville home that no longer does the display.

"It was just a shame to not have somebody carry it on. It is a lot of work, but it's really worth it to see the kids smiling," Josh Covert, who bought the decorations from the Coralville home, said.

In its first year as the Santa House in North Liberty, the display has already caused quite a bit of a stir.

On Monday, Covert said he received an email with no subject or body from one of the city's code enforcers, with an attachment for an $835 fine. 

"I was really shocked because, first off, I didn't receive a warning," he said.

Covert said after speaking to city officials, they said they sent a warning five days prior but Covert claims he never got one.

The fine said that the owner of the property, Covert, had placed private property on the city's public right-of-way. The property in question was Covert's 15 lit-up arches that went over both sides of the sidewalk. Covert said he couldn't see how the arches could have caused a problem because they were a foot past the sides of the sidewalk.

"We were heartbroken, disappointed. The arches are really a favorite amongst everybody who comes out here. It's kind of the best part to see the kids running under them. We've seen families taking family pictures under them. That's what really was the most disappointing part to me," Covert said.

The outpour on social media showed that Covert wasn't alone in his disappointment. Many people in the community expressed similar feelings online.

North Liberty Communications Director, Nick Bergus, said most cities in Iowa have the same rule that they were enforcing.

"We require private property to not be put on public property and the public right-of-way, including the area around sidewalks," Bergus said.

Covert complied with the city after receiving the fine. He moved the arches to face the street along the side of his property and because he said he didn't receive an initial warning, he didn't have to pay the $835 fine.  But he's still upset about the ordeal.

"I was really surprised that the city wasn't even willing to discuss ways that we could leave it. I offered to pay for a permit if that's what I needed, but they just wouldn't have that conversation with me," he said.

He hopes to try and continue the discussion with the city in the future about recreating the walkway.

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