A homemade Christmas display created to benefit children with autism in Maple Ridge, which bylaw shut down earlier this week, is back in operation, after Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden went to bat for Santa.
The city’s bylaws department was being criticized as Grinches on social media, after shutting down the privately run Christmas charity.
Don Taylor runs Santa’s North Pole Village at his home at 22395 124th Ave., where he lets families have photos with Santa sitting in his sleigh, check out his model North Pole village, and get a free stuffed toy. Everything is done by donation, and proceeds go to the Chrysta Academy, which is a learning centre for children on the autism spectrum.
The city bylaws department contended he was running a business without licensing and in the wrong property zone.
But the mayor visited, and “he seemed supportive of what I’m doing,” said Taylor.
It seems the mayor gave him the Christmas gift of speaking with city staff on his behalf.
“I went and met with Don and his wife to see Santa Village and assess the operation for myself,” said Morden.
“The city has laws in regard to public safety and usually there’s a little more to every story. I did confer with staff and am happy to report Santa’s Village will remain open, while Mr. Taylor and staff work through the various concerns raised.”
Taylor said he found the mayor down to earth, and that he took a common sense approach.
The village typically sees four or five families per hour, and the most he has ever had is three at once, he said. There are not long lineups or parking hassles in the neighbourhood.
Taylor, who grows a legitimate Santa beard, said he does take money for appearances he does as Santa at parties or daycares. But the proceeds from the village go to the learning centre that has been so good for his son who is on the autism spectrum.
He said the charitable enterprise has snowballed, and now he has local business sponsors providing coffee for guests, and enough stuffed toys to fill a bedroom in his house.
He is nearly finished operating this year, open on Sunday from 5-9 p.m. and again on Dec. 27 from 4-8 p.m.
Next year he will open again, but is looking at alternative locations, with better exposure and more parking.