Man behind Maisie's Magical Christmas House pulling the plug over city rules
Published Friday, April 5, 2013 5:02PM MDT Last Updated Friday, April 5, 2013 6:59PM MDT
It's a sight thousands of Edmontonians go to see each year but Maisies Magical Christmas House won't be lighting up this winter.
The man behind the annual Christmas tradition in Edmonton says he’s pulling the plug on the well-known Maisies Magical Christmas House because he's fed up with city regulations.
Maisie's Magical Christmas House has been lit up on the corner of 144 Avenue and 97 Street for eight years and each year the impressive display attracts thousands.
But homeowner Jerry Dolynchuk says the lights won’t be turning on this Christmas – and says the city is to blame.
“All of a sudden, they’re putting conditions in that make it impossible to work anymore,” Dolynchuk says.
"I don’t think the city realizes they’re getting rid of probably the biggest thing for Christmas in Edmonton."
Dolynchuk’s popular display has grown so much that some of it now rests on city property.
After receiving several complaints about the road right-of-way in the area, the city asked Dolynchuk to scale the display back and follow several requirements in order to continue using the city-owned property for his display.
City fees, licence agreements, liability insurance
Dolynchuk was asked to sign a licence of occupation agreement, pay a $75 dollar annual fee, take out liability insurance, and wait until October before setting up any Christmas decorations.
Dolynchuk typically starts setting up in August because he says it takes three months to complete.
"They want me to pull a permit with the city. Every year they want a fee. They want me to pull a million-dollar liability insurance, I have to go through different levels of government, it's literally turning into a business and once it's a business, the fun is gone,” Dolynchuk said.
“You just lose interest in it. I was doing it because I was making people happy."
The city told Dolynchuk if he did not comply, they would ticket him.
“If the license is found to be unacceptable to you, the use of the road right-of-way area will not be allowed,” read a letter from the city’s transportation planning branch.
“Enforcement tickets will be issued and unauthorized objects will be removed.”
'You can't make it smaller like the city wants'
Dolynchuk has spent almost a quarter of a million dollars growing his display over the years but says enough is enough.
“You don’t build it up over eight years and then start going backwards and destroying it,” Dolynchuk said.
Residents CTV spoke with Friday said they were upset to hear about the end of the holiday tradition.
“It’s always been a bright part of our Christmas season and the kids loved seeing it too,” said Cory Hulst.
“Once a year the guy brightens the place up, I think the city should back off and leave him alone,” said Orest Holowaychuk.
Maisie's Magical Christmas House is named after Dolynchuk’s mother Maisie.
“I figured I’d hang a few sets of lights and it got carried away,” Dolynchuk said.
“When she passed away I carried on her name and the honour of it and it just got bigger and bigger. You can’t make it smaller like the city wants.”
'It makes the community a better place'
The festive house also acts as a big annual fundraiser helping the city’s less fortunate.
Each year visitors to Dolynchuk’s house make donations to the Edmonton Food Bank.
Marjorie Bencz, executive director for the Edmonton Food Bank says she hopes Dolynchuk and the city can come to an agreement that would see Maisie's Magical Christmas House light up once again.
“My hope would be there’s some kind of way to working this out so that Jerry’s needs are met and the City of Edmonton’s needs are met so that Jerry can continue on his work,” Bencz said.
“We appreciate the support that Jerry has brought to our organization but his home is more than just a food bank, it makes the community a better place.”
Bencz says Maisie's Magical Christmas House is special to the city.
“Jerry’s home is one of those things that makes Edmonton special and creates opportunities for families to go out and celebrate the family season,” she said.
But Dolynchuk says his labour of love has turned into a huge hassle.
He’s fed up and he says he’s already sold some decorations.
Dolynchuk even plans on moving out of the home.
“It’s going to be very depressing every winter comes, people will be coming here and there will be nothing here,” he said.
“I thought I would never ever stop this… I was doing it because it was making people happy.”
With files from Veronica Jubinville