An Indiana woman who died in November requested in her last will and testament that her dog Bela be buried with her. One problem: Bela is still alive.
But neighbors aren't so merry.
Despite a private mediation session at City Hall where the mayor and police chief tried to play peacemaker, Mark and Kathy Hyatt continue to be at odds with most of the other people who live on their cul-de-sac.
The neighbors complain about the traffic, often hundreds of cars each night. The Hyatts say they have a right to enjoy the holiday on their terms.
And the city says there is nothing it can do.
"I'm doing everything I can to keep everyone as calm as I can but I won't stop but because the people every single night tell me not to; there is so much joy," said Mark Hyatt, who said he cut back the seasonal display at his house at 11201 NW 14th St. by opening the gates only from Thursdays through Sundays to try to appease the neighbors. The home has received acclaim on national television news shows and in Forbes magazine.
"I'm not going to allow the few to ruin it for the many," Hyatt told the Sun Sentinel.
The display includes 5-foot-tall gingerbread men, a snowblowing machine, a cast of eight moving elves in Santa's workshop who saw and assemble toys and a 20-foot inflatable movie screen that loops Disney movies.
New this year: an 80-foot ski lift for stuffed animals. Also, a Facebook page — with more than 600 "likes" so far — to draw even more attention.
The neighbors say living next to the Hyatts is a nightmare at this time of year. One family leaves town for most of the holiday season to avoid the crush of traffic. Others keep their children indoors after nightfall.
"I have a parade going through my neighborhood every night," said Jean Sauleau, who lives across the street. "I love Christmas, I'm a Catholic. But it's to the point where it's not even about the decorations, it's about how you treat your neighbors."
"This is not what Christmas is about," said Sauleau. "You tell me: If I have to sell my house, how do I sell my house with that in the yard for six months out of the year?" referring to the long period required before the holiday to set up the mega display.
The city has tried to clamp down. Last year, it targeted an 8-by-2 banner the Hyatts erected that listed their website, hyattextremechristmas.com. The Hyatts said the banner was necessary because it gave the hours of the display. But the city said it was too big, and constituted an improper advertisement because the website included a link to Kathy Hyatt's real estate company.
Eventually, the Hyatts took the banner down. Since then, at the urging of neighbors who said they were afraid of flying objects during a hurricane, city inspectors and building officials examined the property in search of code violations, and found none.
With the city apparently powerless to tone down the 180,000-light Yuletide extravaganza, Mayor Diane Veltri Bendekovic and Police Chief Howard Harrison sat down this fall with the Hyatts and some of their neighbors and asked for a compromise.
Even though he said he didn't have to, Mark Hyatt promised he wouldn't allow gawkers to park on the swales or congregate in the middle of the street. He cut back the days of public access to his property from seven nights to four. He increased the amount of volunteers — from two last year to five this season — to direct traffic. And he said he wouldn't turn on the lights until the day after Thanksgiving.
Residents, though, were still peeved about the crush of cars that turn up after dark, and wanted the city to assign a police officer to direct traffic. Citing the cost, the city declined.
So the show, and dispute, on Northwest 14th Street go on.
"Mr. Hyatt perceives it as a community service, his neighbors perceive it as a nuisance," Veltri Bendekovic said. "But as long as he's within the law, the city of Plantation has to follow the letter of the law."
Neighbor Adam Fractenberg said, "This is not the same as having a Christmas party where your street is blocked for two hours, this is ongoing for eight weeks. It's not an inconvenience, it's a hazard. It's great for everybody else in the community, except for those of us who live on the block."
Rafael Imbert lives across the street.
"It looks like a junk yard sale," said Imbert, who said gawkers have blocked his driveway with their cars as they walked away to check out the display. "Three days ago they left their car in the middle of the street. Before the Hyatts moved here, it was a nice and quiet neighborhood. Now this time of the year, it's totally a mess."
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