When the Waitsfield Farmers’ Market requests its permits for the 2019 market season, the Waitsfield Select Board will have some questions about previous permits, parking and how that impacts area merchants.
The board received the letter from Kathy Rose and Jeff Parker, owner and manager (respectively) of The Store in Waitsfield.
They detail their concerns with the regular Saturday market and how it impacts their business as well as the business of others in the shopping center.
NOT TO DISCOURAGE
“This letter is not meant to discourage having a farmers’ market, only to demonstrate that it should be moved. Unfortunately, the popularity and growth like so many other successful events have caused severe problems in its current location. We urge the organizers and the town to find another suitable location to continue this market,” Rose and Parker wrote.
They note that parking capacity at the market has been exhausted and that the overflow causes problems for other merchants and that the port-o-lets do not provide sufficient facilities for the crowds and that traffic from the market is dangerous and a hindrance to businesses in the area.
“Due to the parking needs of the farmers’ market many businesses have realized that their retail business is actually suffering on what should be the busiest day of the week. Many locals and visitors will not attempt to negotiate the parking nightmare during the hours the market is operating. This results in less customers who want to shop in a specific business rather than attend the farmers’ market,” Rose and Parker wrote.
They also questioned whether the conditions of past select board permits have been upheld. Citing a request for vendors on social media which called for 60 vendors, they question where those 60 vendors will park given that the town permits specify that the parking to be used will be in the Mad River Green, yet parking during the market hours fills the Shaw’s lot, Slow Road and any nearby spots.
“We have noted that in past permits the select board has approved that during holidays and busy weekends the farmers’ market management would provide traffic control using licensed operations to do so. This has not been the case. I don’t believe we have ever seen the use of any traffic control,” they added.
They asked the board to hold off on issuing a permit until there can be further study and consideration of the issue.
“In an effort to not be someone that complains without offering solutions, we would suggest that the organizers and town look into possibly using Skatium for the market and adjacent field for parking. Another possible solution would be to use the field just to the northeast of Waitsfield Telecom,” they concluded.
The select board discussed the letter briefly at its March 4 meeting with board members acknowledging that traffic on Saturdays can be an issue.
WORST DAY OF BUSINESS
“I’ve gotten support for The Store’s position from an employee who used to own The Blue Toad and said that Saturday was the worst day for business,” board member Jon Jamieson said.
Board chair Paul Hartshorn said it bothered him that they suggested the Waitsfield Telecom field when, “We did nothing but crowd the Haskin family right out of town.”
Board member Sal Spinosa told the board that he wants to talk about it at an upcoming meeting.
“I have some thoughts and it’s really interesting to read that letter because it didn’t come out the way I thought. I kept thinking about the tangential business spawned by it. Instead, what we get is ‘they park where our people park.’ There’s a lot to this. Traffic is traffic. This has got a bunch of tentacles attached to it,” Spinosa said.
“If the alternative is to move it to Kenyon’s Field and suck all that activity and connectivity out of the village, I don’t think as many people would go to it,” Jamieson said.
Farmers' Market - Phineas Gage performs. File photo.