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The Community Market has clearance from the town to operate for the remainder of the year.
Friday, August 23, 2013
The Community Market, which sparked homegrown resentment when it opened in apparent competition with the Blacksburg Farmers Market last month, can run for the rest of the year, the town’s planning director said Thursday.
And one of the new market’s organizers said sellers there may switch a day of operation to not so closely mirror the older market.
“I think things will settle down. … We are working to make things better,” said Tracie Harrah, a longtime vendor at the Blacksburg Farmers Market who helped form The Community Market. Her Under the Green Umbrella business sells baked goods and more at both markets.
With the official sanction from the town, The Community Market is planning a formal ribbon-cutting at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Harrah said.
Town officials and representatives of both markets can use the rest of the year to work out a possible amendment to Blacksburg’s zoning ordinance, Planning Director Anne McClung said.
One outgrowth of the market squabble has been to highlight that the ordinance does not really allow farmers markets. The Community Market was cited for a zoning violation on July 30 and faced a civil penalty of up to $5,000.
As for the Blacksburg Farmers Market, which is in Market Square Park, “It was just different because that one was being operated through an agreement with the town on a piece of public property downtown,” McClung said.
A letter that McClung signed Thursday rescinds the zoning violation issued to The Community Market and allows it to exist as a collection of “itinerant vendors,” a term from the town ordinance, for the rest of 2013.
The new market can’t add or shift vendors without approval, the town letter said.
Organizers of the Blacksburg Farmers Market could not be contacted Thursday.
After the new market opened, the board of directors of the Friends of the Market, the nonprofit group that runs the Blacksburg Farmers Market, called for a non-binding vendor vote on expelling Harrah and two other vendors from the older market’s board. The other two vendors, Kathy Anderson of Nanny’s Garden and Sharon Morley of In the Gardens, resigned ahead of the vote. Harrah did not step down and said Thursday that the vendors voted to keep her on the board. She said the rest of the market board was still considering the matter.
Harrah and others working at both markets say they have attracted different customers. The Community Market, in the parking lot of the Blacksburg Square shopping center, has drawn a more elderly group of buyers who appreciate being able to park close to the stands, Harrah said.
The Community Market won’t allow vendors to relocate from the older market, Harrah said. A vendor like herself, who already sells at the Blacksburg Farmers Market, must continue while setting up at the new market, she said.
Both markets sell goods grown or made within 50 miles of Blacksburg. A difference is that the Blacksburg Farmers Market is producers only, meaning vendors have created their wares. The Community Market allows wares that vendors did not produce, but that originated within the 50-mile radius, Harrah said.
As for both markets’ operating on the same days, Harrah said she hoped a vendor vote at The Community Market would soon OK switching the Wednesday market day to Tuesday. Saturday would likely remain because it is such a heavy shopping day and both markets need it, she said.
Harrah thanked Mayor Ron Rordam and other officials for helping settle the zoning issue. Organizers at the new market found a model ordinance for regulating farmers markets and submitted it as a possible start for talks, she said.
McClung said town staff will seek guidance from Town Council at a Sept. 3 work session. Then the town might form a committee to discuss an amendment for council to consider before spring.
The amendment might go beyond farmers markets, McClung said. The town also lacks a regulatory framework for food trucks, farm-to-table dinners and other activities tied to agriculture or traveling vendors, she said.
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