Residents Sound Off On Fourth Of July Committee’s Carnival Request

WILMINGTON, MA – The Board of Appeals’ deliberation over the Fourth of July Committee’s special permit request to hold a carnival in the Swain School parking lot began on Wednesday night.  Board members heard from more than 20 residents:

Speakers Against The Carnival Proposal

“10,000 strangers in your neighborhood! There’s enormous chance for things to go wrong,” said Mary Lamont of School Street, who noted carnivalgoers used to gravitate towards the high school, but will now be right in the middle of her neighborhood.  “Everyone wants a carnival, but you don’t live there!  You haven’t put up with all the issues for all these years.”

“I’ve lived in the heart of this for decades and we’ve tolerated it – the people on our porches, the people on our steps, the people not wanting to leave our yards, the public urination, the trash, the breaking up of fights,” said Fran Bernard of Church Street.  “But we’ve endured too much,” noting that, during the Fun on the Fourth week, her elderly dad is worried to leave the house and her pets must be taken away.

“The neighbors and I have silently suffered in the past. I’ve been a silent sufferer,” said Larry Gordon of School Street.  “The carnival is an ‘attractive nuisance’ and danger to the neighborhood…. I’m OK with the idea of carnival, but the venue is totally wrong.”

“This celebration has become bigger and bigger and bigger every year… It’s no longer a just a Wilmington celebration,” said Steve Dineen of School Street.  “The area is now too small for it.  It’s no longer manageable… I want to see a Wilmington carnival, just not at that location.”

“The [celebration] has gotten too big – it’s one of the largest Fourth of July celebrations in the state,” said Joe Muellens of School Street, who says he has suffered previous damage as a result of carnivalgoers.  When a church youth leader told him her kids would visit his property on July 5 to pick up trash, Mullens responded, “I appreciate your offer to clean up, but you’re probably not going to want to pay for my window when its get broken.”

“The proposed carnival is too big,” said Susan Leiskau of School Street.  “It’s inappropriate.  Find another space.”

“It’s nervre-wracking when oceans of people are going across my lawn, tripping and falling,” said Kathi O’Donoghue of Middlesex Avenue, who noted her neighbor was tied up in court for three years after a carnival goer tripped and fell on her property.  “I’m a veritable hostage in my home for 7 days, making sure nothing happens to my property, that no one gets harmed on my property, and that no one claims they got harmed on my property.”

Speakers In Favor Of The Carnival Proposal

“Every Fourth of July, I can’t get out of my driveway, and I wouldn’t want to!,” began Paul Melaragni of Middlesex Avenue.  “The celebration gives this town the spirit it’s had for 36 years… Nobody does this anymore.  Small town America is going away.  Lets preserve this.  Lets keep this in this town.”  Melarangi asked the Board of Appeals to “push the cynicism to the side and give the Fourth of July Committee one chance to pull this off.”

“I believe this event has become a part of the soul of this community… Killing this event kills a part of this community,” said Dan Madore of Lawrence Street.  “My family moved to this community because of events like this…  It’s one of the reasons people move here.”

“Great accommodations and compromises have been made by the Fourth of July Committee to decrease the level of inconvenience to abutters and neighbors,” stressed Selectman Mike Champoux.  “This celebration is a definition of who were as a community… Let us have this celebration this year… And, if necessary, we can make tweaks in the future.”

“If you allow this to happen and allow for fear to take over, everything else is going to change, and what was great about this town is going to be gone…” cautioned Deb Smith, a volunteer for youth sports groups in town.  “The Christmas Tree Lighting could be the next thing to go!”

“I think we ought to have more faith in our Police and Fire Departments and give this a chance for one year to see if it will work, which I think it will,” said Ruth King of Powderhouse Circle, who stated she has never had any problems stemming from the carnival.  “If you go into things with a positive attitude, you might find you’ll really enjoy the [celebration].”

“I think [the Fun on the Fourth] is the best thing about this town… I’m all for it,” said Lori Hayes of Middlesex Avenue.  “I have the utmost faith in our police and fire departments.”

“[The Fun on the Fourth] is what we moved to the neighborhood for,” said Pamela Griffin of Middlesex Avenue, who argued the Town Common area is not a quiet place, noting the high school and student parking lot are present.  “The other neighbors moved here knowing full well what was going on.”

“If the carnival is a problem, shouldn’t all the other large activities in the Town Common area – with little or no police presence compared to the carnival – be a problem as well?,” asked community volunteer Peter James.  James asked the Board of Appeals to focus on all the positive things the carnival brings, reminding them that the local non-profit groups would lose money and visibility if the carnival wasn’t held.

“I’m a direct abutter and I’m completely in favor of hosting the carnival as proposed,” said Dan Heffernan of School Street, whose family moved to Wilmington for 18 months.  “We’re falling in love with this town and there’s lot of great things that happen here… I’m completely sold and all in favor.”

“I haven’t had the problems that the other abutters have talked about having,” said Dick Searfoss of Powerdhouse Circle, an abutter since the carnival began 36 years ago.  “Never had a problem at all.”

“The leadership of the July 4th Committee, the Town Manager, department heads and public safety officials have served the town well all these years and speaks volumes about working together to achieve a safe Fourth of July celebration,” said Fourth of July Committee Vice Chair Joan Searfoss of Powderhouse Circle.  Searfoss said this year’s plans, as always, ensures a safe carnival and she’d be the first to say otherwise.

“I pledge to abutters that whatever the vote is and whatever the Fourth of July celebrations look like, I – all my kids – will be there on July 5th to [pick up trash] and be good neighbors to you,” said Wilmington Methodist Church Youth Coordinator Kim Gould.  Gould later suggested setting up a GoFundMe page and having the community groups put out tip jars at their food court booths to raise funds for abutters in case they incur any damages not covered by the carnival’s insurance.

“I love it. I’m all for it,” said Chris Splaine of Adams Street, who used to live right next to the celebration when it was held in the high school parking lot.  “It’s only for a couple of days…. [The abutters] need to suck it up and enjoy the holiday…”

Tim Feely, State Rep. Jim Miceli’s Legislative Aid, read a letter from Miceli in which he supports the proposal, but also wants the abutters concerns to be taken seriously and addressed.  Miceli wrote that he’d be happy to “partake in any discussions to help ease the process for any abutters opposed to the idea.”

Board of Appeals Chair Charlies Boyle also informed the board that the town’s Planning Board has recommended approval of the special permit request.

The Board of Appeals will presumably take a vote on the permit request at its next meeting on Wednesday, February 10 at 7pm.

Watch the entire meeting, courtesy of Wilmington Community Television, below:

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