March 6, 2013

South Portland farmers market has no site for 2013

The City Council will weigh objections to last year's seasonal location.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The South Portland farmers market, which was established in 2011, is without a home for the upcoming summer season, according to its manager.

click image to enlarge

In this 2011 file photo, Nancy Gage of South Portland, left, buys Swiss Chard from Mohamed Abukar, who sells organic vegetables from Fresh Start Farms in Lisbon at the South Portland farmers market. The market, which was established in 2011, is without a home for the upcoming summer season, according to its manager.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

Caitlin Jordan said she was told this week by City Manager James Gailey that his staff is recommending that farmers not be allowed to sell from a location on Hinckley Drive adjacent to Mill Creek Park.

The outdoor market used the Hinckley Drive site last year, which required that the road be shut down every Thursday afternoon for four hours. A credit union is located on the street.

"Staff has heard from many businesses in the area that the closing of Hinckley Drive was very problematic last year, as Hinckley Drive is the major travel corridor between Cottage and Waterman Drive," Gailey wrote in an e-mail to Jordan.

Gailey mentions in the e-mail that it will be the City Council that has final say in where the farmers market can operate.

Jordan said she learned this week that a second potential site -- the parking lot of the Hannaford supermarket on Cottage Road -- is no longer available.

"The farmers market doesn't have a home," Jordan said Tuesday night.

The market started out two years ago at Thomas Knight Park near the Casco Bay Bridge, but a new set of rules adopted by the South Portland City Council Monday night will no longer allow use of that park for farmers markets.

Jordan said the park was not a good location in any event because it was "too far out of the way."

"We've had our share of struggles trying to make this happen. It seems as though every time we take two steps forward, we have to take two steps back," said Jordan, who is a member of the Cape Elizabeth Town Council.

Jordan said she will ask that the South Portland City Council override the staff's recommendation and allow farmers to return to the location on Hinckley Drive beginning in May. The market would operate through October.

No date has been set for a council discussion.

Jordan said the site on Hinckley Drive is ideal because it is a high-traffic location and is very visible.

"Any business owner will tell you that you have to have the right place to succeed. It's all about location, location, location," said Jordan, who operates Alewives Brook Farm in Cape Elizabeth.

Former mayor and city councilor Patti Smith said the City Council endorsed a new set of zoning amendments Monday night that actually will allow farmers markets to operate in more locations.

But the new rules -- which received a first reading Monday with a vote on final adoption set to take place March 18 -- require more city oversight.

The major change requires the Planning Board to approve a market as a special exception use.

In the future, a market will need to develop sketch plans, a parking plan, signage and waste collection plans before it can be approved.

The proposed changes will not affect the winter farmers market that operates inside the former Hamlin School.

Smith encouraged Jordan or any other groups interested in operating a farmers market to submit a proposal to the city for review.

"I think the City Council really wants to see a successful farmers market," Smith said.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

 

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