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Farmers Market proposes move

Proposal would include Aug. 1 start at new location

Photo illustration of proposal by Janelle Patterson Top: Lisa Bell, of Bell’s Farmhouse Bakery, serves a customer of the River City Farmers Market at the Washington County Fairgrounds. Middle: Allison and Dave Florence, of Twin Pines Dairy serve a customer at the River City Farmers Market from their refrigerated truck. Bottom: Debbie Murphy of Murphy’s Farm, sells jellies and jams to a customer at the River City Farmer’s Market.

The River City Farmers Market has paid for a street closure permit proposing to bring its more than 2,000-body Saturday foot traffic downtown from the Washington County Fairgrounds.

“Our proposal is to start on Aug. 1 with our vendors parking diagonally on Second Street and allowing the foot traffic to fill the center lanes as we sell in (removable stations) on Saturday mornings,” said Tom Fagan, vice president of the nonprofit board.

The market’s membership voted June 13 to pursue options to move the market downtown after weighing the costs of an increased rent and losing the indoor space at the fairgrounds previously occupied by craft vendors and used for storage of tables and tents during the week.

“We are not being kicked out of the fairgrounds, we’ve worked there with a good relationship for many years, but as the rent was going to go up by almost 300 percent that wasn’t doable when our annual revenue only covers the cost of our liability insurance, maintenance on the building and some of the extra events we put on,” said Fagan.

So the nonprofit, which annually sees a membership of 75 vendors, seasonally, looked to move downtown, ultilizing Chapter 945 of Marietta City Codified Ordinances to submit a street closure permit. If granted, it would allow for the market to utilize Second Street from Putnam Street to the cross walk in front of Rockstar Wellness without through-traffic by vehicles from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.

The permit is under the purview of Mayor Josh Schlicher to grant or deny.

Fagan noted this is not the first time the nonprofit board located the locally sourced market downtown, with iterations as early as the 1950s closing the first two blocks of Front Street, and between 1999 and 2006 when the market was located beneath the Williamstown Bridge on South Third Street until Homeland Security negated the location.

The proposal was added to the Lands, Buildings and Parks Committee agenda for discussion Thursday.

Fagan was joined by Ben Williams Thursday to answer questions of the legislators and the pair were supported by the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We’re in full support,” said Deana Clark, executive director of the bureau. “It’s a great draw not only to locals but also for tourism and that’s a great asset for towns I’ve seen work elsewhere.”

When Clark learned of the proposal, she noted that in addition to the potential for increased foot traffic downtown, if also paired with cooking demonstrations and/or entertainment with the two downtown theaters, the events would be an economic driver into local businesses.

Fagan also noted the board allows nonprofits, school groups and churches to set up as a vendor free of charge during the market and that child entrepreneurs are able to set up for half the price of a regular or weekly vendor.

“My oldest daughter does wood burning and she’s at that price of membership,” Fagan explained. “And the whole goal of offering free space for nonprofits, churches and school groups (for example a team bake sale) is to give back to the community.”

The concept, and use of space was supported by not only Second Ward Councilman Mike McCauley, but also other members of council

“I am in full support of this, I think it’s a great idea and the perfect location,” said Councilman Bill Gossett, who is also the owner of Cobbler John’s which would lose six parking spaces in front of his storefront in the Dime Bank building.

Fagan noted that members of the board also approached the Original Pizza Place on Second Street and Tampico Mexican Restaurant and received favorable response this week concerning the proposal.

Councilman Geoff Schenkel said he has seen similar iterations of street closures for farmers markets driving foot traffic into “brick and mortar” in Chautauquan communities and that he was in full support of the partnerships and potential “double duty” economic and downtown design test drivers the proposal could offer.

After Gossett shared his support, Councilwoman Susan Boyer noted that at least 50 percent of the voting body was in favor of the market’s proposal.

Fagan also said the market carries liability insurance, and is requesting the closure times of 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. to allow for adequate setup and tear-down/clean-up time before and after the official 8 a.m. to noon market times.

“At first glance (Wednesday) I was a no,” said Mayor Josh Schlicher. “But the way you and Geoff are talking about it now … there’s pluses and minuses of it.”

Fagan said after the meeting that he was not formally notified the permit was up for discussion by city council until contacted by the Times Thursday afternoon.

Councilwoman Cassidi Shoaf noted after the meeting that the permit was a late-add to the agenda on Thursday.

Safety-Service Director Steve Wetz also offered a verbal counter-proposal Thursday asking the market board to consider closing the third block of Butler Street between Ohio 7 (Third Street) and Second Street, with an option to overflow into the city-opened gravel parking lot across Butler from the WesBanco.

Fagan and Williams said they plan to measure the width and length of the block of Butler Street between Second and Third to determine whether the space would allow for vendor distribution out of vehicles and still allow for emergency vehicle clearance through the street.

“We submitted this permit to get the ball rolling and start these conversations,” said Fagan.

Then, Councilman Mike Scales guided the market board members to offer multiple scenarios for public consumption as options at a public meeting inviting surrounding business owners and members of the public to attend and hear full proposals.

The public meeting date was not scheduled by the mayor Thursday but Fagan said he also plans to attend Council’s next regular business meeting at 7:30 p.m. on July 2 to enter into the record additional statistics supporting the board’s proposal.

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

What’s next:

-July 2: Representatives of the River City Farmers Market plan to attend Marietta City Council’s regular business meeting at 7:30 p.m. in room 10 of the Armory to present foot traffic data, liability insurance and vendor support for the proposed move to Second Street.

– To be scheduled: Mayor Josh Schlicher and Safety-Service Director Steve Wetz were guided Thursday to schedule a public meeting within the next two weeks and invite surrounding business owners of the 200 block of Second Street.

*No date was scheduled while in council committee.

At a glance:

– The market is required to vacate the indoor fair building at present used by craft vendors and for storage by the end of June, but will remain with outdoor tables and tents at the Washington County Fairgrounds throughout July.

– The market has proposed use of the half-block of Second Street between Putnam Street and the crosswalk in front of Rockstar Wellness beginning Aug. 1.

– The proposed closure is outlined in the market’s application to the mayor for a street fair event permit as outlined by Marietta Codified Ordinance Chapter 945.

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