Tiverton Concerned About Longplex Events
To put it politely, Longplex Family and Sports Center is at odds with the Town of Tiverton. The town council says that Jim Long should not be running events that draw large numbers of people. They accuse him of overcrowding, blocking exits, and improperly parking cars. They also accuse Long of threatening to throw town officials out of the business. Long says the council is singling him out because he's made the town look bad.
This small town beef has been going on for more than 2 years. Regardless, there is a home show scheduled for this weekend at Longplex.
"I had a problem with the fire marshal," said Long. "I took a beating from him for a year and I finally stood up to him and appealed all of his decisions. I won all of them and it embarrassed the town. Now, they are busting me for everything they can find. They even took away the street parking in the industrial park."
Town officials, however, say the street parking during Longplex events was taking up so much room that there was worry that emergency vehicles wouldn't be able to reach the scene if needed. "When he has these events that are not permitted by the town and he's got cars parked all over the Industrial Road, that puts us at a huge liability," said Town Administrator Chris Cotter during a March 2022 Tiverton Town Council meeting.
Jim Long says the town is out to get him. "Now, they're trying to say I don't have an event license, that I can no longer do events. They gave me a violation. I appealed it to the zoning board who agreed with me that I had a recreational license. Zoning told me I was allowed to continue doing what I was doing. Tiverton appealed it and brought me to Superior Court, suing their own zoning board, where I won again. They tried to ban me from doing any events until the appeal date, but the judge wouldn't go along with it."
Long says he's at the end of his rope. "You'd think they'd be supporting me, but they're going against me trying to make me as miserable as possible. Just recently, when I got my license for this weekend's Northeast Home and Garden Show they told me that I was not allowed to park cars on my front lawn. That's my own land! They're telling me I can't park on my own lawn, saying it's against the code, but they wouldn't send it to me in writing. I'm done. Chris Cotter called me a car sales person. I am the highest single taxpayer in the town of Tiverton. No one pays more taxes than I do, and he's saying this about me. I've never overcrowded and I've never blocked a door or an emergency door. I would go to jail. The fire marshal is lying to the town council and they're running with it."
New Bedford City Councilor and an owner of Silmo Syrup, Ian Abreu is one of the organizers of this weekend's home show at Longplex. Abreu has a unique perspective of being both an entrepreneur and a sitting city councilor. "The role of government is to ensure that proper and appropriate business practices are adhered to in order to ensure the safety of the community. However, there are times where bureaucracy gets in the way of economic development. I think what's happening between Longplex and the Town of Tiverton is a shining example of just that very situation."
Abreu says people like him who are trying to conduct business in Tiverton become the political football. He says that he was left in limbo about whether or not the town would even approve his home show up until three weeks ago. Abreu says that as a result of the town dragging its feet, it created a hardship on him. "Here we are advertising on the radio about a home show that we don't even know if we can have. Tiverton left us up in the air."
When asked if this experience would make him think twice before conducting future business in Tiverton, Abreu said, "Absolutely. 100%."
We reached out to Tiverton Town Administrator Chris Cotter a number of times this week and left messages with his secretary, but he did not return our multiple phone calls before leaving for vacation.
However, in a town council meeting last year Cotter leveled some pretty serious accusations on Long. "Fire exits were blocked. I've had discussions with our fire marshal who says he was threatened with being thrown out of (Longplex). There are building issues and fire code issues that he hasn't adhered to while he's been building. We have grave concerns about putting that many people in a building without having some idea of how many people are in there and how to get them out (in the case of an emergency). (Long) is non-compliant and unwilling to work with us."
"He's got to treat our staff a little bit more respectfully when we go in," said Cotter. "We are trying to work with him, but it's a two way street. Some of the reports here about how our fire marshal was treated is a great concern. He's got to be able to contain that business within his own property. These rules and laws are there for a purpose."
The Northeast Home and Garden Show is scheduled to take place Saturday and Sunday at Longplex Sports Center in Tiverton.