Carver’s Edaville Looks to Go Christmas-Only, Add 40B Housing
On January 3, the owner of Carver’s Edaville theme park went before the town’s Board of Selectmen to propose developing a portion of the park’s property into housing units, including affordable housing, while making the park itself a seasonal attraction only during the Christmas season.
“We stepped back and said look, we have to think about reinventing Edaville,” owner Jon Delli Priscoli told selectmen. “How do we go forward and how do we make Edaville permanent? How do we make sense out of this property, and also figure a way to manage the open space and potentially do some housing, and do it all at one time?”
The park, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2022, had to battle through the COVID pandemic in recent years, as theme parks were one of the last businesses to be allowed to re-open under former Governor Charlie Baker’s plan.
So what exactly is happening at Edaville? The rumors have been flying, so let’s take a look at what was said in that meeting, what is being proposed, and break it all down.
There’s No Imminent Change at Edaville
This is not something that is happening anytime soon. Delli Priscoli was merely outlining what he would like to see happen with his property in the future.
“Nothing has been filed,” Carver Town Planner Thomas Bott told WBSM. “At this point it is a conceptual plan.”
In the meeting, Delli Priscoli said he wants it to be a “collaborative effort” with the town.
“This is to share information and give you some scope about what we’re talking about,” he said. “There’s no votes being taken, no approval being given. This is to bring the town into the discussion mode and see how we go forward in a collaborative way, which is what our wish is.”
This Is Not the “New Owners” Selling Out
There have been numerous comments on social media that suggest that the “new owners” of Edaville merely ran the park for one holiday season in order to placate customers, and that “the plan all along” was just to grab the land and develop it.
The only problem with that is Edaville doesn’t have new owners.
Delli Priscoli has owned Edaville for just about 25 years – and still does. Prior to this season, he brought in two people to help him run the park: Managing Partner Shervin B. Hawley, and Operations Partner Brian Fanslau. Fanslau, the owner of Maine Locomotive & Machine Works, also brought in his partner Hannah Miller to assist in running Edaville.
Although it was reported elsewhere in the media that the park had “new owners,” Delli Priscoli never sold the park, despite previously putting it on the market.
How Will the Park Change at Edaville Under This New Plan?
“We’ve decided at this point to turn Edaville into Christmas-only, since Christmas was always 70 percent of Edaville’s business – 60 to 70 percent over the years,” Delli Priscoli said.
He said the concept would be to make the park something akin to “a Bavarian Christmas market, like you see in Europe.”
“Crafters, people selling wares – we’ll make it a very unique Christmas experience for families,” he said.
Edaville has already added an Old World-style Christmas market in recent years, with local vendors renting out the space.
Delli Priscoli said Edaville would also appeal to special events in the off-season, but that the park would not be open year-round.
“Christmas would be our entire focus,” he said. “That we feel would be best for Edaville’s longevity, because I want to see Edaville survive. I want to see Edaville go forward.”
As part of the development of the housing complex, the tracks at the front of the park would also be returned to where they originally lay, Delli Priscoli said. He also said the Thomas Land attraction has not worked out and will not continue.
Edaville Might Not Have Had Any Future as a Theme Park Otherwise
This is a plan that will keep the park going for the future, even if just seasonally.
Delli Priscoli had previously put the park on the market in April 2022 for $10 million. Although he personally had invested $25 million into the park in recent years, the Marion resident wanted to retire and spend more time with his family.
“Our preference would be to see that the park continue on,” he told the Boston Globe at the time. “It needs new energy, new vision.”
Of course, there would be no guarantee that a new owner would want to step up and include running a theme park with the potential development of the land. That’s why Delli Priscoli decided to go with two trusted friends to bring that new energy and new vision.
“The new operators…are committed to the long-term success of Edaville as a traditional family park centered on its historic steam locomotives and family-oriented activities,” the park posted to its Facebook page when making the announcement back in August.
What Is 40B Housing?
As explained in the meeting by Carver Town Planner Thomas Bott, 40B comes as part of the state law regarding affordable housing in each community, allowing for more flexibility in the zoning bylaws.
“If a town doesn’t have 10 percent of the housing stock in their town designated as affordable, then they’re subject to a 40B, where a developer can come in and override the local zoning and create additional housing that’s more than your zoning would provide, provided at least 20 to 25 percent of those are affordable,” Bott said in the meeting.
What Is the Process to Start a 40B Project?
Bott explained that the applicant applies to a state subsidizing agency, which that state agency would then notify the town of the site the applicant intends to develop. From there, the town has 30 days to reply with concerns regarding the 40B proposal.
The agency would then make its decision, and if it decides favorably, the applicant is then permitted to apply with the town. From the date of that application, the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals has 30 days to open a public hearing, and after that, 180 days to render its decision. There can be an extension by mutual agreement of the ZBA and the applicant, which would give them another 40 days.
Delli Priscoli said his intention was to involve the town as stakeholders in this process from the very start.
What Is Proposed for Housing at Edaville?
Delli Priscoli is proposing taking a portion of the Edaville parking lot, as well as a section of the park where there are two unfinished rides, and using that land to build 336 rental units in seven residential buildings.
There would also be a clubhouse building that would have a community room, work from home space, a fitness center, locker rooms, a game room and more. It would have its own private water and sewer systems with an on-site water treatment facility.
Of those 336 units, 182 would be one bedroom units, 119 would be two bedrooms, and 35 would be three bedrooms.
The affordable units would comprise 25 percent, or 85 units: 46 one bedroom units, 30 two bedrooms, and nine three bedrooms. Local preference would be given to 70 percent of those units, and there may be a lottery system in order to rent one, with yearly tenant income certification to ensure they’re not making over the income guidelines.
What Else Will Happen on the Edaville Site?
Delli Priscoli said developing Edaville will also allow him to open up 600 acres of open space around the Atwood Reservoir to both residents of the Edaville apartments and the townspeople of Carver.
He said he envisions it as a four-mile round-trip trail for walking and bicycling, along with the ability for canoeing and kayaking on the reservoir itself.
You can see the complete plans for the potential development of Edaville at the Town of Carver's Planning and Community Development page.