Falmouth Farmers Market to Remain at Peg Noonan Park
By: CHRISTOPHER KAZARIAN, January 29, 2014
After several meetings, many of them emotional, selectmen kept with the status quo, voting to keep the weekly Falmouth Farmers Market at Margaret (Peg) E. Noonan Park for the entire year.
Although the market has been tied to that location since 2008 when it started, in recent years there have been complaints about the event’s impact on traffic and parking in the downtown area.
Those complaints led selectmen to shift the operating hours of last year’s market from noon to 6 PM to 11 AM to 5 PM as a way to reduce any conflict it had with the evening dinner crowd.
And during the fall the board began working on a special events policy that market organizers and supporters believed was targeted at them. The original policy would have required that any special events that charge participants for goods and services be allowed for an initial three years at Peg Noonan Park before being asked to relocate elsewhere in town.
After public input, selectmen decided to adopt a modified special events policy earlier this month that looked at an impact an event has on traffic and parking only during the months of July and August. Along with that the policy tasked town manager Julian M. Suso to seek input from appropriate town departments on all special events and make a recommendation to selectmen on whether they should be approved.
Quite candidly I think we are kicking the can down the road.
Selectman Kevin Murphy
While Mr. Suso’s working group asked the farmers market to seek an alternative location for the months of July and August, last night selectmen voted to keep the event on Main Street with the goal of obtaining data over the summer to determine exactly what are the negative and positive impacts of the weekly event.
Selectman Mary (Pat) Flynn proposed the idea of not moving the market this year. During the summer she suggested the town do some actual planning as to alternative locations for the market as well as research, including traffic and parking studies, that would give the board real data on which to base any permanent decision it eventually makes. Her comments lead to clapping in the audience, which she shrugged off. “I know a lot of you have e-mailed me and I know this is what you want,” she said. “I think we should make a more rational decision about this.”
When the board kicked off the agenda item, Katherine A. Mahoney, the market’s manager, asked that the event, held every Thursday from May to October, remain at Peg Noonan Park.
This past weekend, she said, market organizers polled 47 merchants on Main Street asking whether they were opposed to the event being at its normal location. She said a majority, 67 percent, had no issues with the market at Peg Noonan Park.
Push For Alternate Location
But selectmen, particularly Rebecca Moffitt and Kevin E. Murphy, did. The pair stressed that their concern with the market was over the location.
Ms. Moffitt lobbied for the market to be moved to in front of Gus Canty Community Center as a way to expand Main Street’s presence farther east. The location, she said, would be ideal for the event with bathrooms, a place for children to play and easy access via Dillingham Avenue. And the Department of Public Works, she said, is willing to modify the green space there to make it flattering for vendors to sell their products.
Meanwhile Mr. Murphy asked about Bigelow Marine Park on Scranton Avenue, overlooking Falmouth Harbor. He noted there is plenty of shade there as well as the utilities, from electricity to water, organizers would need.
Despite these proposals Ms. Mahoney asked for the market to remain at Peg Noonan Park.
“If we say no to Peg Noonan park, do you have a second alternative?” Mr. Murphy asked.
“We do,” Ms. Mahoney said.
“Because we were obligated to,” said Patricia S. Gadsby, a board member of the market. Seconds later she remarked that it was odd that Mr. Suso’s working group supported other weekly events during the summer in Peg Noonan, including the Falmouth Village Association’s weekly movie and concert series, but were against the farmers market going there.
Mr. Murphy pointed out those events were free while the farmers market was selling goods. “If you were giving away your product,” he said, he would look at the market differently.
Among those to come to the market’s defense was Elizabeth H. Gladfelter of Hidden Village Road, West Falmouth, who called the event one of the best things to happen to Falmouth in her 17 years of living in town. “I think it’s a good idea to let the fair stay where it is and let’s get some real data from this summer,” she said.
James B. Robertson II of Main Street, Falmouth, asked the board to equate this to other hypothetical scenarios. What if the Memorial Day ceremony was moved to Falmouth Harbor or the 4th of July fireworks was moved to Falmouth High School, he asked, suggesting there would be a public outcry if this were to happen. The same is occurring now, he said, with the proposal to move the farmers market.
Others asked the board to consider the benefits the market brings to the downtown area and to look at it as an asset instead of a hindrance.
Selectmen ultimately sided with those supporting the market as Ms. Flynn, Douglas H. Jones and chairman Brent V.W. Putnam voted in favor of keeping it at Peg Noonan Park this year while collecting data and looking at alternatives for the future.
Prior to the vote Mr. Murphy complained that the board had wasted roughly seven to nine meetings on this issue and coming up with a policy related to special events that it was not even following. “Quite candidly I think we are kicking the can down the road,” he said. “We spent nine meetings coming up with a policy and direction and now we’re not even going to listen to it in any form or fashion.”