Moving the Lawrence Farmers Market to a larger location downtown may be possible, but receiving $300,000 in public funding to make other improvements to the market isn't likely to happen soon.
City and county commissioners at a joint meeting Wednesday afternoon agreed that tight budgets would make it next to impossible to fund improvements to the farmers market next year.
"The farmers market is a delightful experience and I would like to see it expand, grow and become better, but I have a hard time justifying how to spend the taxpayers dollars to create the ambiance you want," County Commission Chairman Bob Johnson said.
Organizers would like to move the market from a 64-space lot in the 1000 block of Vermont Street to a 104-space lot in the 800 block of New Hampshire Street.
In addition to seeking permission to use the city-owned parking lot, which is directly north of the Kansas Public Service building at Ninth and New Hampshire, market organizers would like government funding for several improvements including: canopies for 32 stalls to make the market more weather-proof, electrical hook-ups to serve several vendors, and a permanent rest room facility.
Those improvements are estimated to cost $350,000; group leaders are asking both the city and county commission to contribute $158,000 each to the project.
Wednesday, market organizers told commissioners the project was worthy of public support because it draws customers to downtown Lawrence and serves as an incubator for small agricultural businesses.
"The market involves 124 different businesses that sell there at one point or another," said Myles Schachter, a market organizer. "In any other situation, if we could grow 124 different businesses for this amount of money, I think we would jump at it."
Commissioners did hear from Mike Riling, an owner of three buildings west of the lot the market is eyeing. He said the market would create parking problems for the area.
"It would be a constant clash if it is located there," Riling said.
Market organizers disagreed, saying they have informally monitored the parking lot and that it has plenty of spaces available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays when the market would be in operation.
City commissioners said they would like more data about how much the parking lot is used, but said they would consider allowing the market to move to the location, minus the improvements. Market organizers said they would have to poll their vendors to see if there was interest in making that move.
Another option, County Commissioner Jere McElhaney said, is to study the possibility of shutting down on Saturdays part of Vermont Street next to the market's current location to allow a larger number of vendors. Another possibility is to close the alley in the 1000 block of Vermont on Saturdays.