Archive for Friday, March 16, 2007

Farmers Market looks to expand

City regulations may stop plans at The Merc parking lot

March 16, 2007


Mercedes Taylor-Puckett, left, downtown Lawrence Farmers Market coordinator, and Jeanie Wells, Community Mercantile general manager ,discuss their efforts to open a new Farmers Market on Wednesdays in the Community Mercantile parking lot at 901 Iowa. The two were outside the Community Mercantile on Thursday.

Mercedes Taylor-Puckett, left, downtown Lawrence Farmers Market coordinator, and Jeanie Wells, Community Mercantile general manager ,discuss their efforts to open a new Farmers Market on Wednesdays in the Community Mercantile parking lot at 901 Iowa. The two were outside the Community Mercantile on Thursday.

Organizers of local farmer's market look for expansion

Organizers of the downtown farmer's market are looking to add an extra day of produce each week, but instead of hosting the market downtown, the plan calls for the market to be held in front of the Merc. Enlarge video

The downtown Lawrence Farmers Market is looking to expand outside of downtown for the first time.

But market organizers may not want to bet the farm on the idea just yet. That's because city regulations may become peskier than a spring weed.

Mercedes Taylor-Puckett, market coordinator, said Thursday that the Farmers Market organization is working on plans to open a Wednesday afternoon market in the parking lot of the Community Mercantile at Ninth and Iowa streets.

"We were looking for a location that has some good visibility to remind people of the market and to attract some people who have never been before," Taylor-Puckett said. "But I didn't realize it was going to be such a massive undertaking from a regulation standpoint, and that is becoming a problem."

Planning staff members said they're leaning against approving the request because it could cause parking problems. To reserve the 20 parking spaces to make way for the market requires city approval.

Sandra Day - the city planner overseeing the review - said the city wants to work with the organizers, but said the parking lot for the Community Mercantile already is undersized. She said the previous city code required 86 parking spaces for the Community Mercantile and the adjacent liquor store. The Community Mercantile in 2000 received a variance from the city code to have only 82 spaces. Reducing that number by another 20 for even one day a week could be problematic from parking and safety standpoints, Day said.

She's urging organizers to consider moving the Farmers Market to a different part of the shopping center, where parking problems may not occur. But Taylor-Puckett said that would require dealing with a different property owner, and that could put the project in jeopardy.

Taylor-Puckett said she hopes a plan can be worked out with city officials because the expansion would provide a boost to the Farmers Market operations.

Jeanie Wells, general manager of The Merc, said she was excited about the project because it fit in well with the mission of the cooperative, which buys many of its products from local producers.

"We think it is great to give the consumers a chance to meet the farmers and producers," Wells said.

The Wednesday market - which would run from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. - would not replace the Farmers Market's Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday markets in downtown Lawrence. The market opens its season April 14.

The new Development Code approved by the city in July removed the requirement that site plans must go before city commissioners. Instead, they are to be ruled on by the city's Planning Department.

But the code does allow for the Planning Department's decision to be appealed to the City Commission. Taylor-Puckett said the Farmers Market perhaps would take the issue to the City Commission, but would rather not.

The issue has drawn the attention of people following the City Commission campaign, in part because two candidates have connections to the Community Mercantile, and outgoing Commissioner Mike Rundle is an employee of the grocery store. Commissioner Boog Highberger, who is seeking re-election, is a former mercantile board member, and the husband of candidate Carey Maynard-Moody is on the board of directors for the nonprofit mercantile.

But some of the talk surrounding the issue has been incorrect. The fact that the site plan is being reviewed administratively instead of by the City Commission is standard operating practice under the new code, Day said.

Concerns that the Community Mercantile in 2001, when it moved from its Ninth and Mississippi Street location, never had a site plan approved by the City Commission also were unfounded. According to City Commission minutes, commissioners in January 2001 approved the site plan on a 4-0 vote and overrode a recommendation from the planning staff and from the Kansas Department of Transportation to close one of the store's access points off of Iowa Street because it was too close to the intersection.

Commissioners overrode the recommendation after the mercantile leaders argued to keep the access point. Rundle - who also was on the City Commission at the time - abstained from the vote because of his employment at the store.


leadrain 11 years, 2 months ago

Although I'd like to see more local farmers { being a small, hobby farmer myself} get more attention and thus more business. But, wouldn't a move to the Merc lot distract buyers? I like the Downtown venue, it's always been a part of the whole Lawrence experience. The Lominska Family always have great products and will bend over backwards to see you get a great deal for your dollar. Plus, they offer gardening tips and lots of friendly banter. Bottom line is, whatever Lawrence decides, please keep these hard-working purveyers of delectable edibles and flowers close to your heart and pledge your support for the well being of " FRIENDS " mentioned above.

Michael Capra 11 years, 2 months ago

leadrain thats my point if I or my wife go to the market on wed were not going to have to go downtown on saturday.Go to lunch downtown shop,haircut.Not to mention they tried to do this agaist all codes and are city not enforcing them

eatlocalfood 11 years, 2 months ago

The Downtown Lawrence Farmers' Market is fortunate to have deep support in the community. This support has allowed our market to become the oldest continually operating market in the state as well as one of the most inventive and trend setting markets in Kansas. What has kept the Lawrence market strong through these 31 years is its ability to adjust to trends and consumer needs. The consumers' need for convenience is driving our latest adaptation-the Wednesday Market at the Merc. DLFM has never had a market outside the footprint of downtown. Downtown merchants were critical in the formation of the market in 1976 and continue to support the market today. While the market never intends to leave the downtown area, its board recognized that today's consumers are challenged by their busy lifestyles and sought possible adaptations. The Saturday Market is considered a destination market-a place to spend an hour or more dining, shopping and socializing and so folks are willing to go a little out of their way to attend. During the week, people are short on time and rely more on convenience. Attendance at the Weekday Market is a fraction of that on Saturday (averages: Weekday 50-250; Saturday 1000-4000) While we have been able to capture those already downtown including those utilizing the aquatic, community and arts center, the current Weekday Market location lacks the convenience factor for most Lawrencians. Most of us are pressed for time-especially on workdays. We believe many intend to swing by the market during the week, but in their rush to get home and start dinner they forget. We often hear this expressed on Saturdays: "Your tomatoes (melons, peas) were so fantastic that they were gone by Monday. I meant to come down on Tuesday to get more, but:" Siting the Wednesday Market at 9th and Iowa Streets increases its visibility and serves as that much needed reminder. DLFM believe this location will also allow the market to gain new patrons and increase attendance at our other markets. Today's consumers have come to depend on convenience when it comes to buying food. This often means one-stop shopping, open 24 hours a day. They need to pick-up the missing ingredients for dinner or to replenish staples like milk, cheese, and bread. To address the convenience issue, farmers' markets around the country are partnering with natural food stores (Austin market and Whole Foods, Wichita and Green Acres). This allows shoppers to purchase the highly desirable, locally raised fruits and vegetables at the market and then dash inside the store for the other items on their shopping lists. These partnerships are possible because the natural foods stores don't see the markets primarily as competition; they recognize the importance of locally raised agricultural products to their communities. These stores understand that for local, diversified farms to stay in business, the farmers must have a direct outlet for their products.

Michael Capra 11 years, 2 months ago

Ok heres what he is not telling you.The site plan in 2000 was never finished.If any one else did this the city would take them to court and shut them down.But because of who it is not one thing has been enforced by our codes department.And to make things worse KDOT was never informed 9th and iowa is number 4 on there list of worst intersections for car crashes.So lets see Moody,Shauner,and rundle all involved and trying to push this threw and once again trying to bend the rules for profit and put people in danger.Not to mention shame on FARMERS MARKET for trying to take away from farmers MARKET DOWNTOWN and all the biz that are there.This is why we need change at the city commision get rid of the bad stuff Schauner,Boog,Rundle,and now Moody

redglare 11 years, 2 months ago

My family is moving to Lawrence this Spring, in part because of the community's offerings like the Merc and Farmer's Market. The idea that expanding the Farmer's Market to another day and location could be stopped due to lack of parking is sad. Perhaps less parking would encourgae more people to walk or bike -- transportation alternatives that are healthy both for people and the environment. But more fresh veggies and interaction with farmers can only improve Lawrence's quality of life and the quality of dinner too!

Michael Capra 11 years, 2 months ago

Agree with every thing you say.Farmers market is great and always will be. But it ticks me off on how they tried to do this if you had a site plan that said these things would be done and they never have been then why would they get to do a new site plan and not tell KDOT.iF THIS WAS ANYONE ELSE THE CITY WOULD SHUT THEM DOWN.tHE SITE PLAN IN 2000 WAS NEVER FINISHED.So why should they be granted another.I think the farmers market should get as big as kc its a great thing but why put it there it one of the worst intersection in town 46000 cars a day try crossing Iowa with your kids

Adrienne Sanders 11 years, 2 months ago

I don't know much about city regulations, but it's not rocket science to see the answer to this. The simple fact is it would not be smart to put a farmer's market in an already too small parking lot at an already overly busy intersection.

MeeMa8 11 years, 2 months ago

Good Grief! It's 2 hours one day a week. Why make it such a big deal. I have never seen the Merc parking lot full, so there shouldn't be that big a problem. Get over it. Two hours, one day is not going to hurt downtown or anyone else.

Kam_Fong_as_Chin_Ho 11 years, 2 months ago

delegatezero, the quality of life in Lawrence is VERY good compared to many other places in the US. It's great here. If you dislike Lawrence that much, what's preventing you from moving elsewhere?

Godot 11 years, 2 months ago

If the Farmers Market vendors were willing to pay higher fees for their use of a parking lot, they would have even more visibility, and more parking space, at the empty lot at 25th & Iowa.

If someone is injured at the Farmer's Market, who is responsible? When it is downtown, is it the city? And if it is at the Merc, does the Merc take responsibility?

Godot 11 years, 2 months ago

The access to the Merc from ninth street should be shut off. I cannot believe how many people choose to enter the Merc there by making a lefthand turn across double yellow lines, holding up traffic sometimes clear across Iowa. If a traffic cop needed to rack up some violations for the week, he should just stand there and give out tickets for improper left hand turn.

Aimee Polson 11 years, 2 months ago

I like the idea of the farmer's market having a day in the Merc parking lot. But it seems as though moving further west might be more fruitful in terms of appealing to a wider audience and picking up sales that wouldn't or couldn't happen on the other days.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 2 months ago

The Merc's parking lot is frequently full, but not on Wed afternoons when this market is planned.

Godot is right about the left hand turns from 9th into the Merc lot. Turning left on Iowa and then right into the parking lot really isn't that difficult. The city should step up enforcement against those illegal left turns, but I don't think the entrance needs to be closed.

GardenMomma 11 years, 2 months ago

Just one comment about this - if they move to the Merc on Wednesdays, PLEASE remember that one may not turn left over a double yellow line!!!!!!

So many times people are turning left into the Merc lot that traffic backs up into Iowa street. Doing so during rush hour is just asking for a huge pile-up.

Nate Poell 11 years, 2 months ago

scenebooster, it's an addition. They're not removing the Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday markets from downtown. I kind of agree with the idea that it'll draw new customers, but the Merc lot is routinely crowded on Wednesday afternoons. It's never really full, like bozo said, but busy enough that walking around and buying produce is not -- to me, anyway -- an appealing prospect.

sourpuss 11 years, 2 months ago

I don't think a Farmer's Market West would necessarily hurt downtown business. It might just make more business for the Market since people out west wouldn't have such a long trek, and people looking for the downtown ambiance would still go downtown.

As for the "Lawrence is great," Lawrence is a perfectly nice town, but there are actually plenty of perfectly nice towns in the world. Yes, there ARE worse places to live, but Lawrence is not the pennacle of the Good Life either. Good housing is often priced out of range (though hopefully the current housing market will draw down the costs), Neighborhood schools are being closed, especially in neighborhoods were more affordable family housing is, the infastructure is in poor repair, taxes are high, there is very little convenient shopping (if you want a deal, you really do need to leave town), and there are very few things for families to do (bad theatres, no little amusement park, drab parks, etc). Of course, I've lived in Lawrence for 28 years, so perhaps I "wore it out" but it just doesn't seem as fun as it did back in the day.

eatlocalfood 11 years, 2 months ago

The issue of shopper safety is addressed in the Farmers' Market Site Plan Application: Detailed Description of Proposed Project: Downtown Lawrence Farmers' Market seeks to use the northern most parking aisle in the Community Mercantile parking lot at 901 Iowa for a two-hour market on Wednesday afternoons from mid-April to mid-November.

The market area will be surrounded with vendor vehicles. Vehicles will be placed within the parking stalls with the tables and tents extending into the aisle's normal drive lane.

-The ATM will be walk-up only -The ATM's drive-thru lane will be blocked by a barricade and a vendor's vehicle -The western end of the aisle will be blocked by a vendor's SUV and market trailer; the trailer and vehicle will remain attached to facilitate quick movement in case of emergency -A large section abutting the corner of 9th and Iowa will not be occupied to maintain the line of sight at the intersection

Several (two to three) pedestrian openings will be built into the market map. The placement and width of these opening will be based on the recommendations of the city's planning department. Their width will be insufficient to allow vehicular traffic to enter the market.

Orange cones will be placed in the designate market area at approximately 2:00 to 2:30 pm. Vendors will begin arriving at 3:00 pm. The market site will be fully secured (encased with vendor vehicles) by 3:30 pm. Opening bell will ring at 4:00 pm. Closing bell will ring at 6:00 pm. All vendors will leave the market site by 6:30 pm.

Additionally the number of parking spaces utilized by the market will be dependent on the number of vendors in attendance-if there are only 10 vendors (common April-June and September-November) present, the market will shrink to use only half the northern aisle.

Quigebo 11 years, 2 months ago

Wouldn't it make more sense to put a Wednesday market on the west side of town, along Wakarusa? That way these folks, who aren't proximate to the Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday markets, can enjoy the benefits of locally grown food without having to drive clear across town, which produces more greenhouse gasses and further contributes to global warming. Seriouly, look at a map!(,+KS&sa=X&oi=map&ct=title ) There is a large customer base in west Lawrence, tap into it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 2 months ago

"Wouldn't it make more sense to put a Wednesday market on the west side of town, along Wakarusa?"

Might make sense, but where?

9th and Iowa is traversed by probably the largest cross-section of Lawrence of any intersection in town. Not to mention the ready demographic of Merc shoppers who are exactly the type of customers likely to shop at a farmer's market.

altarego 11 years, 2 months ago

6 and Wak. Come on, Mercedes, bring it to the people.

b_asinbeer 11 years, 2 months ago

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a HUGE parking lot that sits EMPTY next to body botique? Parking shouldn't be a problem one day a week if people are willing to walk 1/2 a block. They walk more than that downtown. I don't see what the big fuss is all about.

lslbison 11 years, 2 months ago

As a DLFM vendor and board member, I'd like to share my thoughts behind the decision to explore an alternative venue for the market and to partner with the Community Mercantile. The past several years have seen dramatic declines in attendance and vendor participation in the weekday market. It simply has become unaffordable for many of us to spend the time and money to bring our products to market on Tues/Thur. As a board, we were also challenged with the bottom line for the weekday market's expenses exceeding its income. Our goal in pursuing other options led us to what appeared a perfect solution-a more conveniently-located, higher-visibility site whose patrons support the local food movement. A Wed afternoon market at the Merc met the criteria for both the Merc's slower time and for local growers to have an outlet to bring their freshly-picked produce to consumers. Never in our wildest imagination, (we are farmers after all) did we anticipate the planning, zoning, political and (heaven forbid) safety issues that this location seems to have elicited. Most folks recognize the importance of preserving the diminishing number of small family farms and we naively thought this made perfect sense to bring our products to a location that was more convenient and visible. If the City's decision is to deny a permit to the DLFM to have a market at The Merc, I encourage our elected officials, downtown merchants and the community to support the Vermont St. Farmers' Market so that area growers and producers can afford to bring their products to market.

tnt1985 11 years, 2 months ago

Lawrence IS a great town, but shame on the bureaucrats for over-estimating their importance in keeping it that way. Adding a Wednesday Farmer's Market in a high traffic location is GREAT for all the parties. Downtown Lawrence will benefit from hundreds of NEW market patrons who will be drawn to the downtown Saturday market after their positive Wednesday experiences, The Merc will benefit from increased traffic and new relationships, Lawrencians will benefit from increased availability of fresh, healthy, local foods, and the hard working farmer-entrepenuers will benefit from increased sales and profits. Who's losing here? It's already tough enough to small business to be successful in today's over-regulated environment. Use some common sense. Drive by The Merc on a Wednesday afternoon and count the empty parking spaces. Shame on the planning commission for using the politically correct "safety" buzzword to justify their opposition. It seems that they have a greater affection for numbers and regulations rather than for action that can truly help people. IF indeed we are concerned about safety, then should we allow such crowded, regularly scheduled events such as KU Basketball and Football games? (I love the Jayhawks, this is just for comparison) Maybe Ms. Day and her commission should count parking spaces on those days. What's the difference other than the overwhelming popularity of such events? I also like the entreprenuerial spirit of those those businesses that dress up employees like a slice of pizza or the Statue of Liberty. Let's get rid of them next. Aren't they a distaraction? Do they have enough parking spaces for all the extra business they might attract? While we're at it, let's get rid of entreprenuerial endeavors such as cheerleader carwashes, remote-control car races, and other evil-doers using our precious parking lots. These are equally, if not more "unsafe". Hopefully, there will be a public meeting before this decision is made and forced upon us. If there is a meeting, the commission should consider a location away from their cozy offices - just so that there is enough "safe" parking for all the people who might want to attend. The good thing is that decisions like this will lead to lots of parking spaces in the long run because it won't be worthwhile for people to live OR shop in Lawrence.

girly 11 years, 2 months ago

yep, welcome to dealing with the city of lawrence. it'll probably take 20 years to get this figured out. what comes around, goes around. now it's hitting the ones who are usually causing the problems.

tnt1985 11 years, 2 months ago

girly - what does that mean "now it's hitting the ones who are usually causing the problems"?

JSDAD 11 years, 2 months ago

Wouldn't it make more sense to put a Wednesday market on the west side of town, along Wakarusa?"

Might make sense, but where?

How about the new wal-mart parking lot coming to your town soon.

Confrontation 11 years, 2 months ago

I have no problem with adding an additional day and location for the farmer's market. However, I would hate to deal with the extra traffic at 9th & Iowa if this were to happen. Someone suggested that more people should ride bikes to the market. Considering how dangerous this intersection is for vehicles, I seriously doubt we want to add more walkers and bikers to this area. Besides, the Merc shoppers already have a problem maneuvering their vehicles with all those bumper stickers plastered to their rear windows.

Michael Capra 11 years, 2 months ago

HAWK you are so right about checkers and they Boog,Schauner,Rundle,andMoody were going to push this thing threw.And not have to do any of the things you said and the MERC still has not completed the work from the first site plan then the MERC should be told we cant look at your new one till you finish your first one

eatlocalfood 11 years, 2 months ago

Things seem to be getting a bit distorted in terms of who requested the Wednesday Farmers' Market.

The Downtown Lawrence Farmers' Market asked the Merc to consider the possibility of permitting a weekday market in its lot.

No one from the Downtown Lawrence Farmers' Market has contacted ANY City Commissioner about the Wednesday Market at the Merc.

The Downtown Lawrence Farmers' Market has followed the standard planning department procedure in seeking to have a Wednesday Market in front of the Merc-site plan application filed, adjacent property owner notification, public sign posting and application fee...

The DLFM is continuing to work with the Lawrence Douglas County Planning Department on the proposed site plan. No request for a variance has been filed.

Michael Capra 11 years, 2 months ago

do you think anyone believes for one second that Moody,Boog,and Rundle didnt know of the plans of this.Come on then they should have told you they were in violation of city code on there first site plan,as I under stand you were told this at a meeting with the city.Lets go with your story and who works there Rundle and who is the pres Moodys huz and who is part of the merc Boog and you never talked to them.Wink Wink did you get the secret hand shake to

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 2 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Michael Capra 11 years, 2 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Michael Capra 11 years, 2 months ago

local food lets put you in the parking lot of the herford house and will bet can get a temp use permit with no site plan since it is closed.Alot more vendors and make it from 2 till 6 on wed and I will help you wont cost much at all.Let me know

letsgetwise 11 years, 2 months ago

Someone mentioned the empty parking lot at 25th and Iowa (the old Food4Less) this a possibility? I for one, would definitely check out the market more. Yes, I've gone downtown and think it's great, but for all the reasons mentioned for adding another location, another day, this makes sense for me. I can see why someone would like this at 9th/Iowa, but the traffic mess is as stated. Honestly, I really like the idea of something south. If not 25th/Iowa, what about down at 27th/Iowa (Sears) or 31st/Iowa(Target)?

Michael Capra 11 years, 2 months ago

great idea another we can get and I can get the owner in on it. and much better acsess.what do you think localfood

Michael Capra 11 years, 2 months ago

Why blame the developer the MERC took the space over changed use filed site plan and never finished the things on the site plan.The merc new this but tried to bend the rules and push a new one threw when no one was looking.Now they have been caught they should be exposed Moody,Rundle,Boog with that said tell your buddys on the planning comish to go help them get the first site plan done 6 years is long enough

Richard Heckler 11 years, 2 months ago

Notice the planning commission did say it could be done else where in the same parking lot with no problem. Which also means Merc customers could park elsewhere and walk thus removing all sorts of obstacles. Local farmers would probaly have a lucrative Wednesday relatively speaking.

So far as site plan violations are concerned that is quite common place among developers as one neighborhood discovered when calling a local developer on such an issue. In fact the developer in question was shocked that the neighborhood wanted the city commission to demand that he follow the rules. The property was sold and the new owner had to make the correction but not the developer.

Godot 11 years, 2 months ago

Merrill, that property was years and years old when the Merc took it over. The "developer" no doubt built the shopping center at a time when there were very few rules to begin with.

Michael Capra 11 years, 2 months ago

mary is and a fan of mary had a lamb,boog Ill get it one day,and of course Schauner I vote no on every thing.She is the one that was tring to push the merc deal threw.she never got a tree at xmas

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