UPDATED: Farmers’ Market could expand to include full closure of the downtown square

Alan Long (left), Ward 4 alderman, looks over proposed changes to the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market laws with Ward 2 Alderman Matthew Petty during an Ordinance Review Committee tour held Saturday morning during the market on the downtown square.

Todd Gill, Flyer staff

Update: This item was tabled during the April 16 City Council meeting and sent back to the Ordinance Review Committee for further review. It will be formally revisited during the May 7 council meeting.

What started as a cleanup of language in the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market ordinance could turn into an expansion that would close all four streets surrounding the downtown square on Saturday mornings during market season.

Instead of voting to amend the 40-year-old policies that created the downtown market, aldermen last week voted 6-1 to have the Ordinance Review Committee take a closer look at four proposed updates including closing Mountain Street to traffic and allowing vendors to use the parking spaces on the south side of the street.

Since most of the changes would really only put into law things that have already been going on, aldermen showed little concern with signing off on half of the updates. It was the Mountain Street changes that caused a bit of a hangup.

Some council members, including Ward 2 Alderman Mark Kinion, said they want to make sure freedom of expression is preserved by incorporating language that ensures nonprofit and advocacy groups who normally set up shop during the market are allowed enough space as the market grows.

Others said they want to hear from businesses on the square before moving forward with the policy change.

Fayetteville Farmers’ Market general manager Lori Boatright (right) discusses proposed changes to the market ordinance during a City Council tour of the market grounds last week on the downtown square.

Todd Gill, Flyer staff

After speaking with some of the business owners last week, Ward 2 Alderman Matthew Petty said he felt comfortable enough to propose a new set of amendments that would allow the market even more room to grow.

“When I first brought these amendments to the council, it was my goal to clean up the current policy with hopes to add more street closures sometime in the future,” said Petty. “As it turns out, I might have been a little too conservative.”

Petty said several business owners were excited at the possibility of turning areas that are currently full of parked cars into pedestrian and vendor spaces that could attract more business on Saturday mornings.

By closing traffic on Block Avenue and Center Street, Petty estimated market vendors and nonprofit groups would each be able to grow their booth numbers by 37 percent, and more room would be available for guest vendors, musicians and performance troupes.

The change in policy would also allow the market to add a food court on Block Avenue with food trucks set up on the north and south corners of the street, something market manager Lori Boatright has said she’s wanted to develop for years.

Giving the market the right to close all four streets might not lead to an immediate expansion, said Petty during an Ordinance Review Committee tour held Saturday morning during the market.

“If approved, the market would only grow to include Block Avenue sometime this season,” Petty told Ward 4 Alderman Alan Long. “Center Street would probably be closed in 2014.”

Petty supplied a draft and summary of the new amendments which also state:

  • Right turns would still be allowed for approaching vehicles at each corner of the square.
  • Space for vendors and nonprofits will be allocated equally to each street.
  • Tents would be raised high enough so that lines of sight aren’t blocked to the surrounding local businesses.
  • With potential for a food court, dogs will still be allowed, but owners must carry plastic bags to clean up after their animals.
  • The market shall publish an online map and form to reserve nonprofit space.
  • The market will no longer be subjected to government-mandated fees for its vendors, but will be required to provide the city with an annual report on revenues and expenses.

The council is expected to revisit the proposed changes during the next regular meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 16 inside City Hall room 219.