County: Turn off lights – the party’s over |

County: Turn off lights – the party’s over

Pitkin County codes stipulate that residents must take down holiday lights by Jan. 30, meaning displays like this one must come down. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

PITKIN COUNTY Pitkin County is reminding residents that Christmas is over.

That means no more glowing Santa on the front porch and no more bright red-lighted trees on Red Mountain. Widespread noncompliance with the county’s lighting laws has prompted officials to crack down on those still lighting up the night with holiday cheer. The city of Aspen’s land-use code allows lights on houses up through March 1, but the county requires taking down lights after Jan. 30. That means houses on Red Mountain and other areas close to Aspen, but outside the city limits, are often breaking the rules. Carrington Brown, county code enforcement officer, said he has been getting an earful of complaints that don’t seem to end.”When I get a complaint, and I’m 99 percent complaint-based, then I’ll follow up,” Brown said. “It runs the gamut: Sometimes a neighbor will call me about their neighbor, another time someone will look up at Red Mountain and want to do something about it.”

He said enforcement rarely takes the form of legal action, but it can be a remedy in a dire case. Most of the complaints, he said, have come from motorists on Highway 82 between Brush Creek and Aspen. One local homeowners’ association member said those complaining should have more pressing concerns. “Oh brother, there’s people starving,” said Hilary Burgess, secretary of the Woody Creek Homeowners’ Association, who admitted to twinkling snowflakes in her front yard. “People need to take up knitting or some other hobby. Tell them to get into the four-lane debate or to talk about the football coach.”If Burgess lived in Aspen, the snowflakes wouldn’t be in conflict with the land-use code. In fact, Aspen’s code has a provision that allows an exemption for year-round lights if there is a “demonstrable community benefit.”

It’s unclear whether there is community benefit to the big red trees on Red Mountain, but either way, Brown said he’s trying to remedy the light pollution and maintain the night sky. “This problem is bigger than I thought,” Brown said. “The light code is interesting because what one person does can affect their neighbor. Christmas tree lights, we all think they’re pretty, but …”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is

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