Over the opposition of the Wenham Building Committee chairman, the War Memorial Committee voted Monday afternoon to ask the in May to designate the car barn lot as a memorial park to honor veterans who served in wars.
With two selectmen in the audience, the committee voted to postpone asking the Town Meeting to vote on a specific design for the war memorial - the issues at the heart of the growing controversy about the war memorial.
John Darling, chairman of the building committee, asked the war memorial committee not to pursue any warrant article about a war memorial at Town Meeting this year and instead to create a working group that would include members of the building committee and the war memorial committee to resolve their differences about the design of the memorial itself.
The memorial has to be approved by the building and war memorial committees, the Board of Selectmen and the Historical Commission. It would be funded by private donations and not paid for by taxpayers.
Winthrop Perkins, a long-time Wenham resident, left $60,000 in his will to help build the memorial and $85,000 for its maintenance.
After more than three years of working on the memorial, that chairman Bruce Blanchard called “nearly unique.” The design, which he said would be different than “all the other memorial statues you see around the country,” would be constructed of granite with a base eight to 10 feet long. It would stand two to three feet tall with a five-sided pyramid and a globe on top.
Darling disagreed that the design is unique. It looks very similar to one in Gloucester, he said. He argued that such a design would be “inappropriate” for the historic character of the center of town.
Some in town favor a taller, more spire-like statue, similar to the Civil War memorial.
“Everyone wants to put their fingers on this. There are so many people involved, it is crazy,” said committee member Dean Pederson.
Stuart Corning agreed, describing the process a “bloody poor show.” He said in military terms, there never has been “command direction” from the town on what it wanted the memorial to look like or where it was to be located.
“It is difficult to understand how this has happened in Wenham,” he said.
The committee members' frustration boiled over during the discussion. The director of Veterans Services Terry Hart said he has never seen a town “say 'no' more often. Everyone wants to have veto power.”
The car barn lot is the third location that has been considered for the war memorial. The two previous locations were rejected.
“There is no question that things could have been done better,” Darling said. “We need to get together as a town.” He said it is not good for the town to battle over an issue like a war memorial.
The memorial committee voted down a motion to drop both of the articles planned to be presented to Town Meeting. Selectmen Harriet Davis advised the committee that it should not ask the Town Meeting to consider anything to do with the design. But the committee should ask the Town Meeting to designate the car barn as the location.
“At least you will get some movement,” Davis said.
Selectman John Clemenzi also attended the meeting, but did not voice an opinion.
Darling said there is a consensus that the location for the memorial should be the car barn lot. He said the town's master building plan provides for one third to a half of the car barn lot to be designated as a memorial park.
The design is the issue, Darling said. If any design is presented to the Town Meeting this year, he said he did not think it would be approved.
After the meeting, Darling said he did not know if he or his committee would oppose the warrant designating the car barn lot as a memorial park at the Town Meeting.
Committee Co-chairman Peter Hersee and member Jack Hauck will present the issue at Town Meeting, scheduled for May 7.