Last month, the South Portland Farmers’ Market had no home for the coming summer.
Crisis averted. The City Council voted unanimously this week to let the market return to Hinckley Drive.
City officials had been reluctant to grant the market permission to operate on the site next to Mill Creek Park and a credit union because the busy road would have to be closed for several hours every Thursday.
But after the city’s Planning Board voted last week to give the farmers’ market a special exception permit, councilors voted Wednesday night to allow the road closure.
“We had some concerns about the market going back to Hinckley Drive because closing it caused some traffic problems,” said City Manager James Gailey. “We’ll have to see how it goes.”
Gailey said Hinckley Drive will have to be closed from 2 to 8 p.m. each Thursday to allow time for the market to be set up and taken down. The market will operate from 3 to 7 p.m.
“We did have some major traffic backups last year and people got irritated that they had to drive around this area,” Gailey said.
“The council said, ‘Let’s give it a another shot to see how it works out.”
Gailey said this could be the last summer that the market is allowed to operate on Hinckley Drive.
“I think we’ll just have to fight this battle again next year,” said Caitlin Jordan, president of the Farmers Market Association. “The council is not wild about shutting down Hinckley Drive.”
She said the 2013 season will begin on May 2 and end on Oct. 31. Jordan said she hopes to have at least 10 vendors participating by the time the market opens.
Jordan said the market will feature organic vegetables, fruit smoothies, flowers and meat products.
The first South Portland Farmers’ Market operated at Thomas Knight Park in 2011. That location, next to the Casco Bay Bridge, proved to be too remote and the market did not do very well, Jordan said.
Last year, the market moved to Hinckley Drive and was well received, but Jordan said road construction on surrounding streets caused some traffic congestion.
Gailey said no road work is scheduled in or around Mill Creek Park this summer.
“Hinckley Drive has good parking, access from several different routes and great visibility,” Jordan said.
“It’s got a lot of the things that a market needs to survive,” she said.
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: