Crown Point Christmas Party Verdict: The Show Might Go On
Court awards $300 to disgruntled neighbor, but doesn't ban fireworks
UPDATED MARCH 7
A Crown Point Parkway man who took his neighbor to court over a Thanksgiving night celebration that kicks off a massive Christmas lighting display will get reimbursed for clean-up costs, but no damages.
Kevin Roberts is to receive $305.95 from his neighbor, Dan Hoag -- the cost of cleaning up debris from a fireworks show Hoag hosted in his back yard on Thanksgiving.
But the magistrate did not order Hoag to stop shooting off fireworks, and he did not award Roberts any of the $3,000 in damages he was seeking.
"That's fine," said Hoag, who offered during the court hearing Jan. 30 to reimburse Roberts the $305. "People have already sent in more than that in donations to me."
The case stems from a Christmas display and a lighting ceremony with fireworks on Crown Point Parkway.
Roberts complained to the court that the fireworks show ruined his Thanksgiving dinner and sought $3,000 in damages.
He also said his sister, Cheryl, tried to leave his house and was hassled by people in the crowd of more than 600 that gathered on the cul-de-sac street to watch the fireworks and see the lighting.
But Magistrate Lawrence G. Sheehe Jr., who heard the Small Claims case in Berea Municipal Court, said in his March 4 ruling that Roberts failed to prove the fireworks caused "actual physical discomfort."
Sheehe also ruled that Cheryl Roberts did not offer a reason Hoag, who was in his back yard, should compensate her for being yelled at as she drove her car through the crowd.
And he said that although Roberts wanted the court to prohibit Hoag "from ever conducting another fireworks display in his back yard," a Small Claims Court does not have that authority.
However, Sheehe did say it was clear Hoag failed to follow state and local law in seeking a permit to set off fireworks, even though he got verbal permission from Strongsville officials to do so.
He "strongly suggested" that Strongsville officials work out a better procedure for a citizen seeking to have a back-yard fireworks show.
Roberts said he was less than satisfied with the decision, saying he still believes Hoag's actions caused a nuisance that warranted damages be paid over and above the reimbursement.
"But the main thing is, I hope it opened up people's eyes that he (Hoag" is doing something illegal," Roberts said.
Crown Point Parkway has been featured in local and national news for its street-long lighting display. The lights and yard decorations draw thousands of visitors to the cul-de-sac each holiday season.
Hoag, the main organizer of the display for the last 20 years, launches the season with a lighting ceremony, including a seven-minute fireworks show, on Thanksgiving evening.
Between 600 and 800 people gather on the street, which is blocked off with permission from Strongsville officials.
After coverage of the Jan. 30 hearing appeared on Strongsville Patch, a commenter suggested sending donations to Hoag to help him pay the $305 Roberts said it cost him to clean fireworks debris.
"I started getting checks in the mail," Hoag said.
He said he would donate any money over the $305 to charity.
Roberts said he would also donate the $305 he receives from Hoag to a charity.
The court hearing included testimony from Roberts' other sister that the complaint stems from a vendetta, and that Roberts plans to "make the neighbors' lives as miserable as possible."
In court, Kevin Roberts acknowledged that was true.
"They made my father's life miserable. I want it to stop, or his (Hoag's) life, I want to be miserable too," he testified.
This week, Roberts said the court case did not necessarily resolve things. "I got an apology (in court), but the person who deserves the apology is no longer here," he said, referring to his father.
Hoag predicted this week that the publicity the case generated would mean an even bigger crowd this Thanksgiving, whether he has fireworks or not.
"It's ironic -- it's the opposite of what Kevin wanted," Hoag said. "But I think we're going to be bigger than ever this year."