Tree lights on the square could stay lit year-round

An elm tree wrapped in red holiday lights on the downtown square could soon be illuminated year-round if the Fayetteville City Council makes changes to a 2005 law that bans the display for longer than 60 days.

Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

A small, but very tall portion of the holiday lights on the square could become a permanent downtown fixture.

City officials are asking for a change to a law that would allow the red lights on a large elm tree in front of the old post office building to remain lit year-round.

A 2005 city ordinance bans many businesses from displaying “seasonal” lights for more than 60 days in an effort to reduce “atmospheric light pollution.”

Lights on the tree remained lit for about a week following the annual Lights of the Ozarks display.

Photo: Brian Bailey

The request for a change came from Marilyn Heifner, director of the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission, who said several people had suggested the idea during the annual Lights of the Ozarks display.

Besides adding character to the downtown area, Heifner said the tree could help connect the square to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which has a 47-foot-tall Roxy Paine-designed stainless steel tree out front.

Much like the Paine tree serves as a symbol of art in Bentonville, the illuminated tree on the square could do the same in Fayetteville once local artists move into the basement of the old post office building.

If the law is passed, business owners who were not grandfathered in before 2005, will receive similar privileges.

“We’ve tried to craft this ordinance in a way that doesn’t allow for massive light pollution,” said Don Marr, the mayor’s chief of staff, but does help businesses create an environmental ambience.

Language in the proposed amendment would allow restaurant and bar owners to use “strands of individual, low-intensity, decorative white lights” on their patios during normal business hours.

The lights on the elm tree are still in place, but won’t be turned back on without City Council approval. The council will consider the request at the next regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7.