2012-05-11 / Front Page

City farmers market to move

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

The South Portland farmers market will be moving from one town park to another this summer.

On Monday the city council voted 5-2, with Councilor Rosemarie De Angelis and Mayor Patricia Smith opposed, to move the summer farmers market from Thomas Knight Park to Hinckley Drive next to Mill Creek Park. The market will be open from 3 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays now though Oct. 1. Holding the market on Hinckley Drive means the road, an often-used connector between Ocean Avenue and Cottage Road, will be closed to traffic from Ocean Avenue to the entrance of People’s United Bank from 2 to 8 p.m. It also means people waiting for the bus at the Hinckley Drive bus depot will have to catch the bus on Thomas Street.

Tom Meyers, South Portland’s director of transportation, said he doesn’t believe it would cause a hardship for riders to pick up the bus on Thomas Street, which is in sight of where the Hinckley Drive bus stop is.

After it was decided the Thomas Park location was not ideal for a farmers market, the Hinckley Drive location was eyed. That appeared to be the best option until representatives from Hannaford supermarket offered the market use of a small parking lot to the left of the supermarket and across the street from city hall.

Caitlin Jordan, the South Portland farmers market manager and a town councilor in Cape Elizabeth, said the market’s vendors weighed both options and ultimately supported Hinckley Drive because of the visibility it offers and its proximity to Mill Creek Park.

Smith said due to the concern regarding traffic and congestion, a better option for the market would be in the Hannaford parking lot and made an amendment to switch the market to that location.

“The satellite location — and by that I mean the Hannaford parking lot — to me seems to be a safer location, so we are not dealing with potential injury for cars, buses, bicycles and pedestrians,” Smith said.

Smith added that she supported the Hannaford location because it wouldn’t displace those who catch the bus at the Hinckley bus stop and would prevent the market from being impacted by construction happening in Mill Creek Park during the park’s renovation.

De Angelis said she could not support the market at Hinckley Drive because it made too much of an impact on day-to-day activities.

“It’s concerning to me that we would vote to create parking havoc, access havoc, traffic havoc and us moving a bus stop,” De Angelis said.

She added Hannaford has been willing to make sacrifices to accommodate the market.

“It is more generous than I could imagine any other business being,” De Angelis said of Hannaford’s offer, an offer she strongly supported.

David Orbeton, a South Portland resident and vendor at the South Portland farmers market, didn’t quite see the benefits of the Hannaford location and said Hinckley Drive was an “exceptional location” for the market.

“I could have joined other markets, but I wanted to join ours because if done correctly, it would improve the quality of life in South Portland,” Orbeton said. “A farmers market is great community building. With a good location, good variety of vendors, we could be one of the top markets in Maine.”

Councilor Tom Blake said he originally supported the market moving to Hinckley Drive, but after a site visit to Hannaford and hearing the comments in support of that location, he has changed his mind because it, in part, created a “great partnership” between Hannaford and the farmers market.

His fellow councilor, Maxine Beecher, could not be convinced to support Smith’s amendment.

“I think it belongs on city property,” she said. “I don’t think (the street closure) is that out of line. We aren’t talking about five days a week or even two days a week. We are talking about one day a week.”

Councilors Tom Coward and Alan Livingston were more conflicted about where the proper location for the market was. Coward said he could support either location, but would prefer to see the market operate on Hinckley Drive. Livingston concurred.

“I don’t like everything about Hinckley, but I think it is (the farmers market’s) greatest opportunity for success,” Livingston said.

Smith’s motion to move the market to Hannaford failed in the end because only De Angelis and Blake joined her in favor of it.

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