Carousel turns heads

Thu, 07/29/2021 - 3:45pm

A carousel appeared in front of Aldo’s Bakery some weeks ago. It has the brightly colored little horses kids love, and the ability to entertain youngsters for a few minutes that parents love. Naturally, the carousel has been well-received by kids and parents alike. There’s just one problem. You can’t have an amusement ride in the Town of New Shoreham, per the zoning ordinance, (Section 111, item 9.)
This put the gaming license of Aldo’s Bakery in jeopardy, as the town cannot issue a gaming license if a business has a zoning violation, (Section 8-20 of the Revised Ordinances of the Town of New Shoreham.) Gaming licenses were issued to other Block Island establishments on June 16. Aldo’s was passed over because it wasn’t clear if the carousel met the technical standards of being a game or a ride.
At the Town Council meeting on July 21, Town Manager Maryanne Crawford informed the council that Town Solicitor Bill Landry had advised her the carousel in question was actually an amusement ride.
“I’m recommending the council not approve this gaming license because we maintain it’s not a game, it’s a ride and it’s not allowed by zoning,” Crawford said.
Second Warden Sven Risom agreed. “I feel really bad, I’ve seen the kids eyes light up,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s a pretty clear zoning issue...I don’t know how we can approve it given what the zoning is and given what our legal [counsel] is saying.”
Steve Papa of Aldo’s Bakery told the council they should come down to the bakery and see the carousel in person, rather than relying on a photograph as the town solicitor had done. “I don’t see it as an amusement ride, I don’t see any carny folk there,” Papa said. He also reminded the councilors of who benefits the most from the carousel. “Watch the kids’ excitement, and maybe you could tell them no, you can’t ride it,” he said.
Councilor Mark Emmanuelle did not agree. “Start taking my measurements for the Grinch costume. It’s clear, sadly, that we can’t grant this,” Emmanuelle told Papa.
First Warden Andre Boudreau felt that the situation should have been handled differently, with more notice given to the applicants if there was a problem with the carousel, especially since the carousel has been in front of Aldo’s for weeks.
“I think when it showed up, somebody should have gone to Mr. Papa and said you shouldn’t have this here,” he said. “It should have been done administratively.”
Boudreau went on to ask, “Did anybody send him (Papa) a letter saying that?”
Councilor Martha Ball also asked if a letter of violation of the zoning ordinance had gone out, to which Crawford replied, “No.”

Papa jumped in to say, “This whole meeting you’ve been talking about family friendly, and you’re going to take away a little kids’ ride? I don’t know, it’s crazy.” (Previous agenda items had touched on policing challenges encountered by the New Shoreham Police Department.)
Crawford told the council she followed the rule that as a town manager: “You always listen to the advice of your solicitor.”

Kristin Baumann addressed the council to say, “You have an opinion that it’s an amusement ride, but then you have an owner who thinks it’s a game. So it’s maybe not as clear.” Baumann also pointed out that other people will provide other opinions as well. “There could be another attorney. My guess is there’s going to be another attorney who says it’s a game. I don’t think it’s so clear.”
Ball agreed. “Maybe we need a better definition; nobody wants a Ferris wheel. It seems like we’re talking about a whole different level.”

Councilor Keith Stover suggested that “one man’s small amusement ride is another man’s Ferris wheel. It’s a very clear violation, but we could deal with this issue in a meeting in September.”
Sean McGarry called in to say that if the applicant is in violation of the zoning ordinance, he would have the opportunity to appeal to the zoning board. “I think in fairness to the applicant you need to allow that process to play out,” he said.
The council seemed to disagree with McGarry, as a motion was made and seconded to deny the license.

But as it turned out, this vote was about the kids.

Even the councilors who supported denying the license expressed dismay at having to vote to rob the children of the carousel. Each of the councilors who had been down to see it in person commented on the joy seen in the children’s faces.
In the end, the motion failed 2-3, and the carousel was saved, for this season at least. The council voted to grant the gaming license, but with an expiration date of Columbus Day rather than the customary full year.
Reached for comment by The Times, Aldo Leone said he knew it would be okay and that it would work out in the end. “The town calls it a ride, but it’s not a ride; it’s unattended, it’s coin operated, it’s a kids’ game. We’ve had the game room since the early 80s, and we’ve always brought young kids’ games in. We used to have gun games, and the town encouraged us to get more kid friendly games. We want to be family-friendly, and we are 100 percent family-friendly.”

As reported in The Block Island Times, all net proceeds from the carousel will go to the Block Island Volunteer Fire Department.