Greenport Farmers Market looks elsewhere

JULIE LANE FILE PHOTO | Greenport Farmers Market organizer Lara McNeil serves soup on Oct. 15, when the market closed for the season.

While the Greenport Village Board granted a public assembly permit to the Greenport Farmers’ Market on Monday night, market officials said they aren’t too keen on paying an additional $1,500 to operate downtown again this summer.

Farmers’ market president Lara McNeil said returning to the village for a second season “isn’t completely off the table,” but her group has decided to explore other options following the board’s recent decision.

“We have a very limited budget,” Ms. McNeil said. “We are very disappointed the Village Board didn’t have open discussions with us.”

Although the board discussed the market’s application publicly at the start of its Feb. 21 work session, board members didn’t discuss plans to modify the permit until later, after market officials left the meeting.

“Having a discussion after we left, I think, was a disservice to the community,” Ms. McNeil said. “It didn’t seem like a discussion to me. It’s a very strange way to handle things.”

During the Feb. 21 meeting, deputy mayor George Hubbard said he believed increasing the permit fee to $2,500 from the $1,000 the market paid last year would be more equitable to the business community.

Ms. McNeil described the fee increase as unfair because other municipalities charge farmers markets less for permits. For example, Ms. McNeil said, Sag Harbor Village charged a farmers market $100 to operate last summer in one of the village’s municipal parking lots. This year, that permit fee was waived, she said.

Increasing the Greenport Farmers’ Market’s permit fee wasn’t the only modification made to its application.

Mr. Hubbard had suggested denying the market’s request for a three-year permit. Village trustees ultimately agreed that permission should remain at a single year so the market’s experience with the new location, at the western end of the municipal lot on South Street, can be evaluated before the summer of 2013.

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, for which it pays no rent or property taxes, gives it an unfair advantage. Other local shop owners said the market caused traffic and parking problems.

The Village Board approved the farmers market’s permit application with the minimum three votes. Mayor David Nyce and Trustee Mary Bess Phillips were absent.

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