Frosty reception: All-hours visitors grate on some (1/5/07)

December 23, 2008 

Sure, Snowzilla, the famous two-story snowman in Airport Heights, makes for a cute photo-op.

But try living with it.

"I'm standing in my living room, looking though my front window and all I see is a stupid, big-ass snowman, " said Anthony Bahler, whose turquoise duplex is for sale across the street from the hulking snow character.

Bahler's neighbor, Billy Powers, supervised construction of freakish Frosty for the first time last year, and with the help of the Internet, it became an international media sensation, drawing crowds of visitors.

But all the attention is wearing on some of the neighbors. The idea is nice, they say, just not on their once-quiet street. If the neighborhood drama were a movie, it could be called "Snowzilla vs. NIMBY."

Last year, Snowzilla stories ran in USA TODAY and on CNN. A news crew came all the way from Japan. Powers, at home Thursday, insisted that more than 100,000 people made pilgrimages to his yard.

This year, with the help of his kids and neighbors, Powers resurrected Snowzilla -- with its giant hat made from tomato cages, corn-cob pipe and beer-bottle eyes -- stacking the three icy body balls 6 feet taller than last winter. Once again, gawkers are streaming down Columbine Street.

"Everybody likes it, " he said. "That's the reason I do it, really, I like the smiling faces."

Only a handful of people have complained, he insisted, and Bahler wasn't among them.

At first, Bahler smiled too. He didn't mind Snowzilla, with all its holiday whimsy. It kind of improved his view, as Powers' front yard also hosts a moldering, windowless truck, scrap lumber and a menagerie of mismatched planters. Powers has been going back and forth with the city for junk-related zoning violations since 1995.

As the holiday season wore on, all the adoring traffic -- the moms in mini-vans, the teenagers, the rowdy late-nighters fresh from the bars-- started grating on Bahler.

"When you get 20 people out there in their cars, now the whole street comes to a stop and nobody can get through, " he said. "They just stand out there, in the middle of road, talking about a snowman."

Snowman fans tracked into Bahler's yard to get better angles for their Christmas photos, he said. They slammed the gate on the way in and out, riling his Chihuahua.

Then came the moment that moved Bahler into the anti-Snowzilla camp: "I come home from work and my mailbox was laying there, in the middle of my yard, " he said. "People have no respect."

Mike Schmitz, who lives with his wife and kids next door to Bahler, doesn't mind Snowzilla in theory, but can't stand the traffic.

"I don't dare let my kids go out front, " he said. "I don't want them to get hit by a car."

It would be better if Snowzilla were somewhere else, he said. Maybe in an empty parking lot?

"If it's such a public thing, you'd think the community could get together and find a place to do it, " Schmitz said.

On a recent night, well past midnight, Tabitha Vandike, who lives with Bahler, heard what she thought was a series of explosions outside.

"I look out there and he's got floodlights, and he's jack-hammering, " she said. Bahler came unglued. He went outside where he found a Snowzilla volunteer he thought was Powers.

"I said, look, your snowman, that's your deal, " he said. "Can we keep the power tools quiet? People are trying to sleep."

According to Bahler, the man told him, rather indelicately, that his anti-snowman sentiments were his problem.

Powers says the foul-mouthed volunteer wasn't him.

Now all Bahler and Vandike want to do is sell the duplex and move somewhere warm, like Florida, where there are no snowmen, giant or otherwise. But "It's hard to sell your property when you've got that eyesore across the street, " he said.

As far as city officials are concerned, Snowzilla isn't illegal. The property is actually more of an eyesore in the summer because of all the junk, said Daune Wyatt, a municipal code-enforcement officer. The city got a court order allowing it to clean up the lot this summer whether Powers wants them to or not. They plan to start in the spring.

"Depending on how soon Snowzilla melts, " Wyatt said.

Advised of the neighbors' complaints Thursday, Powers said he was shocked. Then he went across the street and promised to keep a lid on the noise and traffic.

Powers' chief volunteer, neighbor Darrell Estes, said he knew nothing of jack-hammering after midnight, though there has been some jack-hammering to break up any ice hazards at Snowzilla's feet.

"Usually about 10 p.m. is the cut off point, " he said. "There have been some nights where we've sat in (Powers') truck and let it idle and just marveled at this huge thing we've built."

The conversation with Powers on Thursday made Bahler feel a little better, but he still doesn't like the big snowman and still wants to move to Florida, he said.

Outside in front of Bahler's house, Karla Beller, who lives in Chugiak, idled her minivan with her 3-year-old twins inside. She snapped a few pictures with her cell phone while Estes brushed off Snowzilla's belly with a broom.

"I think it's great, " she said. "But traffic-wise, I probably wouldn't want it on my block."

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