JACKSONVILLE — A proposal to move the town's Sunday Farmers Market from the courthouse lawn to a downtown street met a quick end after a merchant opposed the move and City Council members raised objections.
Mayor Paul Becker had approached the market about the possible move, and it proposed shutting down Third Street between California and Main streets to create 30 vendor spaces from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. (Correction: The section of Third Street that would have closed has been corrected in this story.)
"We thought perhaps it might bring more traffic in the heart of the city," said Becker. "We said, 'How about moving it?' (Market Manager Chad Worcester) went along with it. We found out very quickly on this one."
The proposal was dropped after objections surfaced during Tuesday's council meeting. Market officials said they're happy to keep the event at the courthouse at North Fifth and East C streets.
"That's fine as far as we are concerned," said Worcester. "I think the mayor, (City Manager) Jeff (Alvis) and (City Planner) Amy (Stevenson) were saying, 'Let's fly this balloon.' "
Council members expressed concerns about taking away parking spots in downtown, impact on merchants and satisfaction with the current arrangement.
"It isn't broken. Why fix it?" Councilman Paul Hayes said Wednesday. "Studies show merchants will benefit, but if they don't benefit, what's left for them? If they've opened a little store, it's tough enough without having a growers market in front of them."
Tobiano dress shop owner Donis Rothstein, whose business is at 130 S. Third St., told the council she worried about the impact on her shop.
"I saw a string of 25 Sundays ahead of me during the tourist season where my store would be pushed into the background," Rothstein said Wednesday. "And of course it cuts down on parking, which is at a premium in Jacksonville."
Worcester said he talked with merchants who were enthusiastic about the concept but concerned about parking. At the meeting, one person expressed a love for the feel of the courthouse lawn setting for the market, he said.
Started in 2010, the market moved to Sundays in 2012 to avoid competition from markets held on Saturdays in other local communities. Last year, the market usually had 15 to 20 vendors and Worcester would like to increase that number to 30.
Opening day this year is June 2 and the market will run through September and possibly later if weather permits, said Worcester. Hours will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.