Village Board mulls increasing farmers market permit fee to $2,500

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The Greenport Village Board agreed Tuesday night to increase a public assembly permit for the Greenport Farmers' Market by $1,500.

If the Greenport Farmers’ Market wishes to continue its operations downtown this summer, it may have to fork over an additional $1,500 for a public assembly permit.

During the Village Board’s monthly work session Tuesday night at the Third Street Firehouse, Deputy Mayor George Hubbard said he believed increasing the fee from the $1,000 the farmers market paid for a permit last year up to $2,500 would be more equitable among the business community.

“I don’t think it’s a burden compared to what store owners pay in rent,” Mr. Hubbard said.

Greenport Farmers’ Market president Lara McNeil said an application to establish the farmers market as a not-for-profit has been submitted and her group is waiting for that status to be finalized. After Tuesday night’s work session, Ms. McNeil told The Suffolk Times that she found the Village Board’s decision “upsetting,” but couldn’t comment on the new terms until after discussing them with her board.

In addition to increasing the permit fee, Mr. Hubbard suggested the Village Board deny the farmers market’s request for a three-year permit. Village trustees ultimately came to a consensus that the permit’s expiration should remain at one year so that it could evaluate next summer how the market’s new location at the western municipal lot on South Street worked out.

“Let’s give [the new location] a try for one year and see if it works … before we sign a three-year deal,” Mr. Hubbard said.

The market’s previous location on Adams Street drew criticism from some village merchants last year. Some described the market as unfair competition and suspected its vendors were cutting into their business. And some said allowing the market to use public space, which means it pays no rent or property taxes, gives the business an unfair advantage. Other local business owners said the market caused traffic and parking problems.

In a letter addressed to the Village Board, Business Improvement District president Peter Clarke said the new location is a good compromise between the market and the business community. Mr. Clarke said his group hopes to see the market grow in its second year and attract more customers to the area.

The market is looking to operate again this summer on Saturday mornings over a 20-week period starting on Memorial Day weekend.

But Village Mayor David Nyce said he opposed having the market open on that weekend because that’s when the village plans to host the Tall Ships of America event.

“It’s already going to be mayhem here,” Mr. Nyce said.

Although the Village Board has picked apart the market’s application, it agreed that it would like to see the market again this summer.

“The farmers market was a new venue in the village that brought some people in who ordinarily look for a different type of shopping experience,” Village Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said during the meeting. “They stayed in Greenport and I think it was positive.”

The Village Board is expected to decide later this week if it will vote on the market’s permit application at its next board meeting on Monday or schedule a special meeting in early March since Mr. Nyce and Ms. Phillips will be away next week at a conference.

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