(Editor’s note: New information about the potential starting date for the Maine Mall farmers market has been added at the end of this article.)

SOUTH PORTLAND – By unanimous consent, the South Portland Planning Board cleared the way Tuesday for the city’s second farmers market, but lobbying on the issue by one city councilor prompted Chairman Rob Schreiber to walk out of the meeting in protest.

When four councilors, including Rosemarie De Angelis via email, addressed the board May 8 over permitting of the city’s officially sanctioned farmers market on Hinckley Drive, Schreiber refused to vote, calling the injection of council opinion into Planning Board proceedings, “unprecedented.”

“I just feel that there’s been undo influence,” he said, suggesting that testimony by those who make appointments to the planning board weakens the likelihood it’s actions might weather any legal challenge.

Schreiber called on a primer from city attorney Sally Daggett on the nature of the relationship between Planning Board members and city councilors. City Planner Tex Haeuser said that lesson will be delivered at the board’s June 12 meeting. Still, that did not stop De Angelis from unleashing an opinion of her own.

Reading from a prepared statement and brandishing a copy of “Robert’s Rules of Order,” she said Schreiber shirked his “duty to vote” at the May 8 meeting. She also critiqued his work as chairman, calling questions he posed to a representative of Hannaford supermarkets, which had offered to host the market in its Mill Creek parking lot, “Irrelevant. Unnecessary. Embarrassing.”

In an impromptu reply, Schreiber said he did “not feel comfortable participating in any further Planning Board business,” until Daggett weighs in. He then grabbed his coat and left the room, leaving his peers to finish the meeting, and a subsequent 90-minute review of 47 tax-acquired lots, without him.

“It’s a statement,” he said in the hallway, afterward. “I think it’s important to be sure everybody understands when they come before the Planning Board that it’s equal treatment, plain and simple.

“I’m not trying to make grand gestures,” said Schreiber. “I just want to make sure I’m going to hear from corporate counsel now.”

Referring to the foreclosed property workshop, Schreiber said of his fellow planners, “It’s my hope that they will decide to postpone, but they can do what they’re going to do.”

They carried on without him.

Because Schreiber has twice collected a check from the mall for holiday performances in his day job as a band director and musician, he began Tuesday’s meeting by recusing himself from the vote on the farmers market. He sat in the back row and listened quietly as De Angelis took the podium to advise against allowing service providers among the mix of market vendors. In particular, she said, South Portland knife honing business Wicked Sharp should be barred because he does not offer food or a physical, handmade product.

De Angelis said she was not concerned about a competing market to the one she helped found. “Who cares? We’re not opening the flood gates to sell pesticides, or to sell drugs to children,” she said. However, De Angelis said, allowing a knife sharpener among the farm booths potentially exposes the city to a proliferation of masseuses and tarot card readers, among others.

“You can’t limit it,” she said. “You’re either going to allow it or not, and If you allow services, please be prepared for who might apply.”

However, the Planning Board ruled that, as a private property owner, the mall can indeed limit whom it will allow to apply for a vendor license under its blanket approval for outdoor sales and display.

“They don’t want to cause themselves problems,” said Planning Board member William Laidley, offering the presumption that the mall will use discretion and not, as his fellow board member Caroline Hendry feared, unleash a bevy of belly dancers in its parking lot. Hendry said farmers markets staged at the mall in the past were “lackluster” and “not very enticing.”

General Manager Craig Gorris said that since that 2004 show, mall-owner General Growth Properties has put in place a “completely different management team” to oversee local operations.” He said the mall market may be augmented by musical acts, gardening workshops and other events during the summer, but exorcised the belly-dancing spectre by saying, “We intend to create a true farmers market experience.”

Although he did not rule out all service providers, Gorris said the Wicked Sharp question was moot because owner Dave Orbeton had withdrawn his application.

Wicked Sharp was one of four applicants refused a license last week for the city market on Hinckley Drive. Although officials permitted the business last year, it ruled in notices sent May 15, two days before the second-season opening, that artisans, crafters and service providers are not allowed under the market’s governing ordinance. Orbeton has suggested this new interpretation is due to his outspoken support of moving the market to Hinckley Drive from Thomas Knight Park, a change that prompted a two-month long, often contentious debate between camps supporting either De Angelis, who opposed the move, or market manager Caitlin Jordan, who favored it. However, city officials, including Mayor Patti Smith and City Manager Jim Gailey, have chalked the change up to “the learning process” of creating and governing a new endeavor.

Those rules do not apply to the Maine Mall market, which falls under different zoning rules for allowing merchants and private property owners a “special exception” to offer sales ancillary to their usual operations.

“That’s not really a farmers market,” said Planning Board member Amy Cullen. “It’s outdoor sales and display. They’re just marketing it as a farmers market.”

Among the differences, vendor licenses for the city market are $20, while the outdoor display unit fee required for the mall market runs to $120. However, Pat Doucette, the , code enforcement officer, said that, “to get the market started,” the mall plans to “pick up a part” of the costs born by participants in its event.

“We don’t expect to make any money on this,” admitted Gorris. “We just want to offer something that will extend the visit of our customers that, we think, fits into their lifestyle.”

According to GGP’s business development manager, Rochelle Zawaduk, the mall first offered to host the city market back in April, early in the debate over the potential move from Thomas Knight Park. It then developed plans for a second market when, says Jordan, vendors dismissed the prospect in favor of pushing for the “better ambiance” of Hinckley Drive, next to Mill Creek Park.

The Maine Mall farmers market will be open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. every Tuesday through Sept. 25. Gorris said 14 vendors are signed on, but the 75,000-square-foot section of the mall parking lot at the corner of Philbrook and Gorham Roads can accommodate up to 25 booths.

The mall will place barricades and planters to cordon off the market from the remainder of the lot.

Although Gorris has hoped to open the market May 29, South Portland Licensing Director Jessica Hanscombe says the mall has one final hoop to navigate.

“They can not operate until they have gone before the City Council for a variance,” she said on Friday. “Our ordinance requires that any temporary food vendors that set up within 500 feet, property line to property line, of a fixed food establishment must go before the City Council for a variance. We also have to notify all the food vendors within that 500 feet.

“The next Council meeting is June 4, which they are on the agenda for,” said Hanscombe. “So, the earliest they will be issued licenses for is June 5.”


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