Apparently having a Carnival in Eldersburg that doesn’t benefit the local volunteer fire department is creating quite a controversy.  Within hours of the carnival’s owners beginning to set up on the parking lot behind Eldersburg Mall, a facebook group was established called, Boycott Carrolltown Carnival!!!”  That’s right… with three exclamation points.

Reading through the postings, you quickly learn why residents are upset.  First, the location is right in front of neighborhoods that face the mall’s parking lot.  Many of these households have children with bed times far earlier than 10:00 p.m. or 11:00 p.m., the time that the carnival will close.  Since this isn’t summertime, these evenings will be on school nights for an entire week.  Someone posted, “I am furious that this sketchy carnival has set up across the street from my son's school and practically directly in my neighborhood for NINE DAYS.”  Another stated, “Oh, great...stick a carnival right behind our houses. First they let the mall completely run down, close the movie theater, and now we've got this nonsense.”

The next issue that is causing problems is where the proceeds for the carnival are earmarked to go.  Some funds are to go to a group called the Baltimore United Volunteers, whose purpose, according to their website, is to “bring history to life by recreating the solders of the War of 1812 – 1814”.  While this nonprofit provides a real service in keeping our history alive for many, it isn’t a local group.  One posting put it this way, “We have a fire department that burned down and needs replaced this will take some money away from that. Not to mention it's in my backyard!!”  Quoting a posting from facebook, “SUPPORT THE SYKESVILLE FREEDOM DISTRICT FIRE DEPARTMENT and spend your money at their carnival in June! LETS SHUT THIS DOWN!!!”  Again, three exclamation points – clearly evoking strong reaction.

Other stated concerns are the increased traffic, noise and parking issues.  Safety is another concern, with an admonition to, “please remember to lock your doors and remove your valuables from your car.”

Ellen Dix, President of Freedom Area Citizen’s Council, became aware of the carnival and the concerns early this morning when she opened her email.  She quickly summed up the situation, and forwarded an email to Commissioner Howard asking for clarification regarding zoning and health issues.  She also noted that Black Oak Associates, the owner of the Carrolltown Mall, has always been very generous about allowing the parking lot to be used for various purposes.  She citied the example of National Night Out.

A call to Doug Howard’s office gave reassurance that he and his staff were quickly responding to the outcry.  Mr. Howard’s assistant, Roberta Windham, had learned that Carroll’s zoning ordinance allows carnivals and fairs to be in any zoning district as long as they receive a use and occupancy permit, designate some proceeds to benefit a non-profit organization, and the event is held for 10 days or less.  This carnival has met all of those requirements.

Ms. Windham further stated that the health department told her the carnival group had filed for, and received, the required food permit.  She also spoke with Major Kasten of the sheriff’s department and was informed that they are aware of the situation.  As a result, they have asked deputies to patrol the area more frequently, and also that their volunteers do as much as possible in terms of being in the location during the carnival, and perhaps parking sheriff’s department cars in visible locations.

Ms. Windham summed it up by saying the carnival group has followed Carroll County’s rules, and there is no prohibition that says more is needed.  Black Oak Associates owns the land where the carnival will be held, and has apparently given their permission.  Because all legalities have been met, no one else was required to approve the event.

So, there it is. It should be interesting to see how it all plays out as to whether or not there is support from the community to sustain the carnival for their 10 scheduled days.

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