Saturday, November 14, 2009

November 14, 2009 City Finance Committee Meeting and the Farmers Market Site

The Farmers Market site on West Morris Boulevard was a topic of lengthy discussion at the 11/12/09 City Finance Committee meeting.

While the discussion was always civil, there are obvious differences of opinion.

Gene Brooks, who was appointed chair of the Farmers Market Task Force, expressed concern about the current lack of enforcement of codes and regulations. Brooks said that the regulations say "no permanent structures" and that set-up is to be daily on a first-come, first-served basis and then the vendors are to clean and leave in the evening.  [Gene added that he had been appointed chairman of the Farmers Market Task Force, but he was not allowed to appoint members of the Task Force.]

Claude Jinks mentioned health concerns.

Mayor Barile agreed that the area needs to be "cleaned up." Some people who were mentioned as being involved in the Task Force discussions are the Mayor, Alan Hartman, Todd Morgan, Stacy Hayes, and Darrell Williams of the DMA (Downtown Merchants Association).

Brooks pointed out that one individual has set up on seven places and that many are not farmers at all.

Mentioned several times was possible interest by CVS for a pharmacy at that location. [We all know that wherever there is a Walgreens, a CVS will try to locate nearby. And wherever there is a CVS, a Walgreens will try to locate nearby.]

Someone mentioned that Darrell Williams (DMA) had said there would never be a CVS there. Mayor Barile said that the DMA is afraid of losing parking to a CVS if one were built there. Claude Jinks took exception to Mr. Williams' alleged remark and said that the council will decide what happens to the property.

At this time, the city is apparently only considering the proposal of developer Shawn Wilmeth (sp?). McGuffin has talked to Wilmeth and explained that Wilmeth wants a one-year free-look at the property, with no earnest money put down.

Kay Senter suggested perhaps giving Wilmeth a one-year right of first refusal but not tying up this city property for a full year without any compensation.

McGuffin then asked if the council would consider "squaring up" the property and selling it to Wilmeth and having Wilmeth put up an entrance sign where the fountain currently is. There was also discussion about whether a new, updated appraisal is needed.

McGuffin said he thought it was a phenomenal piece or property until he found out about all the utility easements that lie underneath and cross the property. Because of the utility easements, Bob Garrett said that's "dead property" there.

Buddy Fielder said that the city might be able to relocate the utilities to make it possible to build on the property.

Claude Jinks said maybe it should be left as a parking lot since there is so little parking available for businesses downtown.

This is not the first time that the Farmer's Market property has been discussed for lease, sale, parking, etc. If city councilmembers are considering and discussing a ground lease or outright sale of this property, why are they not again advertising and requesting proposals from ALL who might be interested in the property? See my previous post.

The current discussion by at least some members of the council gives the appearance that this is a closed process for consideration of just one proposal.

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