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Hayden man vows to fight lawsuit threatened over his planned Christmas display

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 4, 2015, 10:23 p.m.

Jeremy Morris stands next to his wife Kristy and their daughter Savannah Claire, 3, in front of their home in Hayden on Thursday, December 18, 2014. 
Neighbors have threatened to sue Morris to stop the massive Christmas light show this year. (File photo / SR)
Jeremy Morris stands next to his wife Kristy and their daughter Savannah Claire, 3, in front of their home in Hayden on Thursday, December 18, 2014. Neighbors have threatened to sue Morris to stop the massive Christmas light show this year. (File photo / SR)

When Jeremy Morris learned last month that his Hayden homeowners association may file a lawsuit to block his planned Christmas extravaganza, he fired back a one-word response: “Nuts!”

Last year, Morris and his wife, Kristy, hosted a Christmas light show with carolers, Santa and Dolly the camel at their home inside the Hayden city limits. This year, the couple purchased a home on Ferndale Drive in the West Hayden Estates subdivision and plan to host a bigger and better event at the more rural location. Last year’s event drew thousands of people after it was publicized on Facebook.

Morris, an attorney, is dismissive of the four-page registered letter he received from an attorney representing the homeowners association. He said his event will not violate any association covenants and he doesn’t need to get a special-events permit from Kootenai County.

“We’ve consulted with the county,” he said. “Their legal team has given us a written response. We don’t require a permit.”

The event is to be at Morris’ home from 6-8 p.m. nightly from Dec. 16-20. At 8 p.m., the lights go out and the music goes off, Morris said. “They disperse in minutes,” he said of the people who attend.

The letter Morris received alleges that the nightly gathering will be a nuisance. “Simply put, the quiet residential neighborhood of West Hayden Estates First Addition is not an appropriate location for such activities, and I am confident that, if necessary, a court will prohibit your event from occurring in that neighborhood,” the letter said.

The letter also cites a homeowners association restriction on raising or breeding livestock. Morris said Dolly the camel is only on his property for two hours and goes home each night. Her being there is not against the rules, he said.

“If we had two camels they might get frisky, and then I would be in violation of the rules,” he said.

Traffic concerns also were raised in the letter. Morris said Candlelight Christian Fellowship has agreed to let attendees use their parking lot and be shuttled to Morris’ house. Morris said he will also have traffic controllers on hand.

Last year’s event raised money for two charities, Children’s Village and the Emmett Paul Snyders Foundation. Morris said he plans to do the same this year.

“We’re looking forward to raising a lot of money for children,” he said.

Morris said he thinks the bigger issue is that the homeowners association wants to force his family and their Christian beliefs out of the neighborhood.

“This is an attack on people of faith,” he said.

If a lawsuit is filed, Morris said he intends to allege violations of federal fair housing laws that prohibit religious discrimination.

“I will take it as long and as far as it goes,” he said. “I will not back down.”

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