The future of the Attleboro Farmers Market could be in jeopardy following the City Council's 6-5 decision Monday night in favor of a measure that prevents customers from parking at the market location in the municipal parking lot next to the and requires organizers to hire a police officer.
The measure includes several features aimed at settling the dispute between members of the Library Board of Trustees and organizers of the market, which takes place on Saturdays from June to October. Trustees say they are concerned about public safety risks they say the market creates.
Market co-organizer Heather Porreca told Attleboro-Seekonk Patch last week following a decision by a special council subcommittee in favor of the measure that the requirement to hire a police officer would be "very difficult for us to afford."
Porreca did not attend Monday's meeting and could not immediately be reached for comment. She said last week that if the police feature made it through a vote of the full council, the market's board of directors would need to meet to decide on the next step.
Linda Binns, acting chair of the Library Board of Trustees, said after the council meeting that she was satisfied with the decision.
"This is as good as it's going to get," Binns said. "Our concern is public safety. We are not against the farmers market."
The council spent nearly three hours debating the measure as various councilors unsuccessfully attempted to amend it. The only amendment that was supported by the council majority came from Councilor Jeremy Denlea. It calls for an understanding among all parties that this would be the last year the municipal lot next to the library would be used for the market.
Denlea said the amendment was needed because he didn't want the council to be discussing this again next year and in subsequent years, and it would "finally settle the public safety concern once and for all."
Councilor Sara-Lynn Reynolds said, "There are 10 places in the city where [the market] could possibly work better. I'm sure that if you start looking at it now, you could find a perfect situation for it."
The amendment was approved 6-5. Councilor Brian Kirby questioned the legality of it and Councilor Richard Conti said the amendment sent the wrong message to a successful local operation.
"I can't think of any motion for this council that would be more forceful to push the farmers market to a surrounding town," Conti said. "I will not support this motion because it's basically booting the number one farmers market in Massachusetts out of Attleboro."
The measure prevents any parking on the property during the summer when the library is closed on Saturdays and limits parking to library patrons during the fall when the facility is open on Saturdays. Councilor Jay DiLisio, who chaired the subcommittee, proposed altering the measure to allow parking for market customers. He said he decided this was best after meeting with market organizers last Thursday.
"I don't think it's right for us to have the farmers market pay for a detail and not allow their patrons to use the lot," DiLisio said.
This amendment was met with opposition from a majority of DiLisio's colleagues on the dais, who said allowing market parking would create a safety risk. However, it was not explained why allowing library parking while the market was operating would not also create this risk.
"To have children and patrons and all these farmers and people selling vegetables and to have 28 to 30 cars parking adjacent to them, it just doesn't seem safe to me," Denlea said.
The session at points got heated.
Councilor Mark Cooper declared after the council's vote on one of more than a dozen motions, "I am so thoroughly confused, I'm dizzy."
Denlea then exclaimed, "Pay more attention. It's all very clear."
After Cooper loudly responded, "It's not very clear," Council President Frank Cook slammed his gavel and called for a recess in an effort to ease the tension.
When the council went back into session, Denlea apologized to Cooper for his statement.