Twinkling string lights mostly banned in Cary

akenney@newsobserver.comJune 18, 2013 

— Put those strings of white lights away. They’re still not allowed in Cary, for the most part.

The Cary Town Council on Thursday considered changing a town ordinance to allow strands of white, unblinking lights as landscaping and building decorations across town.

Currently, they’re banned everywhere except mixed-use areas – typically around major intersections – along with downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods, where string lights can be used only as landscaping.

Staff had proposed the change as part of an effort to “clarify and simplify some of the language.” But some elected officials worried that unregulated white lights could ruin the aesthetics of Cary neighborhoods.

“I’m not thrilled with where we allow them now,” much less an expanded area, said Councilman Ed Yerha.

Councilwoman Lori Bush, on the other hand, spoke up for the tiny twinkles.

“I’m just curious – do you hate all light strings, or do you hate them when they’re cascading, or wrapped around a tree?” she asked.

“I didn’t hate them until I saw them all over town,” Yerha responded.

Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson added that ill-maintained lights could become an eyesore.

“They may not have the skill involved to actually make them look good,” she said of residents of and businesses. “The wind blows ... and there’s a lump of white lights on one third of a tree.”

In the end, the council moved to regulate string lights further: A 4-2 majority, with Bush and Councilman Don Frantz dissenting, decided to keep the rules largely as they are, allowing string lights only as landscape in limited parts of towns. The vote will be ratified later this month.

String lights still are permitted around town as part of holiday displays.

Cary’s neighbors have similar rules. The towns of Apex and Morrisville ban string lights totally, except for the holidays.

In all three towns, enforcement is driven by complaints; Cary hasn’t heard one in at least two yers, while Morrisville receives about a half-dozen lighting complaints per year.

Some cities, such as Raleigh, don’t regulate non-blinking string lights.

Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary

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