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It’s Hard To Shed Any More Light On This Battle

Tue., May 2, 1995

Proud homes. Landscaped yards. Professional people…

Ah, the living looks easy out here in Evergreen Point - an affluent Spokane Valley development where you can drop a quarter-mil on a home as fast as you can open a checkbook.

For Greg Matthews, Evergreen Point is no oasis of suburban tranquillity.

It’s a war zone.

The 34-year-old salesman is embroiled in a prolonged, bitter feud over neighbor Mike Clancy’s eye-searing outdoor lights.

Clancy has two of his three stadium-quality lights mounted on the back of his house and pointed in the general direction of Matthews’ back yard and rear windows.

The lights emit a white glare intense enough to transform the gloom of night into high noon. Brilliance floods into the Matthews’ house through every crack in the blinds.

Matthews is fed up being the deer frozen in Clancy’s high beams. “I’m at the point now where I don’t want to do something I’ll regret.”

Trouble began several years ago, after Matthews moved into his nice new digs at 2610 S. Bannen Court. He asked Clancy to cool the lights. He wrote a letter. When diplomacy failed, Matthews took a more militant approach.

He aimed floodlights back at his neighbor. He reported county code violations on the Clancy’s drainage system and fence.

One cool-headed neighbor talked Matthews out of renting one of those giant spotlights used at Hollywood premieres.

“You make your bed, you lie in it,” says Matthews. “I just want to be able to look out my window without being blinded. I want to be able to sit in my back yard and talk to my wife without being lit up.”

Clancy, a 54-year-old Spokane grocer, spent much of our half-hour interview regaling me in great enthusiastic detail on what a generous, church-going civic booster he is.

Unfortunately, the Christian charity doesn’t extend to turning the other cheek and making his neighbor happy.

Clancy claims he needs the monster lights to keep his home secure and to illuminate the putting green and batting cage in his sprawling back yard. “If it’s so bothersome, he (Matthews) should go to the drapery people.”

Clancy denies ever using the lights to intentionally roast his neighbor. He adds firmly: “I have a right to light my yard.”

Sad but true. Though obnoxious by every independent account I could find, the Clancy Light Show is legal due to a glaring gap in the county ordinances.

Lights on parking lots are strictly regulated so as not to spill onto other property, says Allan deLaubenfels, who enforces county zoning. Such rules are ridiculously absent for residential areas.

DeLaubenfels has spent hours trying to resolve the Matthews/Clancy dispute to no avail.

He worries the situation could escalate into something uglier and wants county commissioners to ban any outdoor residential lights brighter than 250 watts. (Clancy’s three lights may put out upward of 3,000 watts apiece, he says.)

“Maybe this guy saw ‘Field of Dreams’ too many times,” wonders County Commissioner Steve Hasson, who vows to do something to ease the tension at Evergreen Point.

“We have a noise ordinance and bright lights are like loud noise, they hurt your eyes.”

Until a few days ago, the glare from the Clancy estate had been dormant for several months. Matthews kept his fingers crossed, silently hoping his neighbor had finally seen the light.

No dice. In one recent week, Matthews claims the lights were on five nights out of seven.

Clancy says a crew was working to fix the fence Matthews tattled on. Matthews fears Clancy was merely kicking off another long season of Light Wars.

“I doubt he’s going to turn around, he’ll probably still be a jerk,” says Matthews. “But maybe this will make others think about their neighbors.”

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