Update: Council May Pull Plug on Attleboro Farmers Market Over Permitting Snafu
Success of a growing market in Attleboro may be the root cause of complaints.
The Attleboro Farmers Market, which sells local produce and products each week, is in jeopardy of being shut down.
Market Manager Heather Porreca received a call late Monday afternoon informing her of two issues that put the market in jeopardy. The first issue is with the market's permit, which was granted only through the summer months.
Porreca said there is some confusion surrounding the permitting of the market. According to Porreca, it has always been the intent to have the market run from the first Saturday in July until the end of October.
A letter read into record states the intention of the market to run until the end of October, Porreca said. The permit, however, reads until the summer months.
Porreca and the rest of the volunteer Attleboro Farmers Market organizers plan to go before the Committee on Licenses Tuesday night.
"I'm requesting clarification of the permit," Porreca said. "And if they so need us to request one, I'll ask for an extension for the market to be open until October 29."
Fight to the End
Councilor Richard Conti, who helped to launch the market, said he plans to introduce an emergency measure to request that the market be opened from May through the end of October each year that way residents can purchase pumpkins, apples and cornstalks.
"Other councilors, who may or not be politically motivated, think the market should have ended on Labor Day," Conti said. "My personal opinion is the growing season ends on Hallow's Eve when the last frost kills off whatever is left sticking out of the ground."
Conti said he will be an ardent defender to the end for the right for the Attleboro Farmers Market to stay in downtown Attleboro. "I will fight like you have never seen."
Attleboro City Council President Frank Cook said there is nothing pending before the Council Tuesday night that would take away the permit granted to the Attleboro Farmers Market because of the dispute over parking between the Market and the Library.
"There was a meeting last week with the issue of the parking lot and the use of it by the library and farmer's market was all worked out and both parties came to accord," Cook said.
Cook, however, did say that if the Attleboro Farmer's Market decides to continue into the fall they will have to ask for an extension of the permit granted back in June, which will possibly require a vote. That request would come to the the Council from the Mayor's office, especially if it is an emergency measure.
The second issue is with complaints from members of Attleboro Public Library's Board of Trustees who, according to Porreca, were concerned about parking for Library patrons.
Porreca said she addressed the library's concern over handicap and non-handicap parking when she met with the City's Budget and Administration Director, Barry Lacasse.
"I made arrangements with Mr. Lacasse to reduce the size of the market from the previous week by opening up handicapped spots and other spaces closest to the library," she said. "We executed the plan that we had, which freed up six handicapped spots, and five non-handicapped spots."
After making the adjustment, the market used 40 of approximate 80 spots in the municipal lot she said.
"We only take up half of the lot and we were permitted for the entire municipal lot," she added.
"My previous understanding of the market plan was that they would consolidate to the spaces on the south end of the lot to the
left of the entrance meter and away from the library door after September 3rd." Library Directorr Walter Stitt said.
Stitt said he explained the situation to library trustees at their regular meeting last Wednesday night. One member then pulled the permit and learned that "the language of the Council permit vote seems to give permission for market use only through the summer months, not
through October," Stitt said.
"The library has programs scheduled every Saturday through October 15, including the major annual Friends of APL booksale on the first," Stitt said. "We feel it is not in the interest of library users to impede their access to the building.
"Personally I hope a place can be found for the Market, which has gained great success this year, which does not interfere with use of the publically funded facilities at the library," he added.
Filling a Need
Porreca said she'd hate to see the market be shut down because of a misunderstanding on the permitting.
"We clearly fill a need in the city," Porreca said. "It is a community event attended by approximately 1,500 people every Saturday. There is nothing in the city that draws that many people on a weekly basis."
On average there is roughly $12,000 in commerce in a six-hour period that takes place every week at the market, according to organizers. And the market was recently voted number one in the state by Farmland Inc. and number 16 in the nation.
Not having the market to spread the word, give out samples and sell their products will be a huge disappointment according to vendor Lynn Porto, who runs Be Sweet Bakery with her business partner Kristen Kerney.
"The market has been a huge stepping stone for us in the community," Porto said. "The people who come are so grateful for this market and the community development is huge."
"The way the economy is you can't just go and open a business you have to have your supporters and following and this is the way to do without having the overhead of a building, rent and everything associated with owning your own business," she added.
Hope for an Extension
If the market is shut down because of a misunderstanding with the date or because of backlash from the library, the community will suffer, according to Porreca.
"We supply WIC (Woman Infants and Children) recipients and seniors food stamp recipients with special farmers market coupons that they can use on fresh fruits and vegetables," she said. "There are parents on WIC who are trying organics for the first time because that is an option to them. They get those coupons once a month and they expire October 29 and to take away that opportunity way–that is just wrong."
"I hope that the City Council would give us the extension that the City and their constituents deserve."