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Abutters object to Farmers' Market at Clark Park

Selectmen approve one-year trial, with conditions

May 29, 2009
WOLFEBORO — A proposal to relocate the Wolfeboro Area Farmers' Market from Clarke Plaza to Clark Park met with firm opposition from abutters at the May 20 board of selectmen meeting.

For years the farmers' market had set itself up every Thursday afternoon during the summer and early fall on the front lawn of Clarke Plaza on Center Street. In 2008, however, the market was displaced to the rear of the plaza by the construction of the GreatWaters Bank & Trust building. The lower visibility and lighter visitor traffic led the markets' sponsor, Global Awareness Local Action (GALA), to look for another location that was still in downtown and available throughout the growing season.

Clark Park, located on South Main Street across from Huggins Hospital, was chosen. The park is leased to the Wolfeboro Historical Society, which maintains the Clark Museum Complex of three restored buildings and a barn in the section of the park closest to South Main Street. Josh Arnold, Executive Director of GALA, met with Historical Society members and was encouraged to apply to the town for a permit to hold the market on the open park common behind the museum complex. Arnold met with selectmen on April 15 and received tentative approval pending a final license agreement, written permission from the Historical Society and submission of an acceptable layout and parking plan for the weekly event.

Arnold came to May 20 meeting with a license agreement drafted by Town Counsel Mark Puffer, a letter from Wolfeboro Historical Society President Jim Rogers granting permission to use the park, and the requested layout and parking plan.

Before Arnold could speak, however, nine of the 11 abutters to the park on Clark Road and East Clark Road presented a petition opposing the use of the park by the farmers' market. Frank Blundo of 11 Clark Road acted a group spokesman. Blundo said the abutters were not opposed to the Wolfeboro Farmers' Market, just opposed to holding it in a residential area. Residents already have enough noise and traffic from people going to and from SunBridge Care and Rehabilitation and Brewster Beach and from the Huggins Hospital construction site.

He also said abutters were not consulted. "For this to be approved without our input is not in our best interest." He said.

Blundo went on to point out that there are alternate sites in Wolfeboro that would be more appropriate for the market: The Nick recreation fields ("plenty of parking"), Cate Park ("plenty of visitors"), Brewster Field, Foss Field adjacent to the Glendon Street parking lot, and Kingswood High School. All of the sites are not in residential areas, he added.

Blundo said he had read the deed given to the town and said use was aimed at students, not commercial activities like the farmers' market. He said he was aware of the plan to ask vendors to park at All Saints Church and said that he had checked that lot and it is always full.

Dorothy West of 7 Clark Road said that when people don't have a place to park they park in front of residents' houses.

Pat Blundo of 11 Clark Road said that the Wolfeboro Garden Club maintains five gardens at the site and that Molly the Trolley goes through regularly.

John Burt of 20 East Clark Road said he was disturbed about the whole proposal. He said the roads in that area were not made for parking on the side and complained that someone from the farmers' market called him early on and said he would talk to everyone but that didn't happen. He also questioned the legality of having a commercial operation in the park. Selectman Chair Dave Senecal responded that the proposed use was agricultural, not commercial. Blundo asked if selling something was not in fact commercial. Senecal then closed public input, saying the abutters would have another chance to speak later in the agenda when the issue was discussed.

Selectmen deliberate

When it was his turn on the agenda Arnold spoke for GALA and the farmers' market. He pointed out the layout sketch he had submitted, which showed vendor parking on East Clark Road, was done before Rev. Randy Dales had given permission for vendors to park at All Saints Church.

Responding to Burt's comment about not being contacted, saying he did try to call as many abutters as possible before the proposal was submitted and offered to meet then and after the proposal was submitted, but was refused.

Selectman Linda Murray moved to limit parking to the 22 spaces available in Clark Park itself, not along Clark Road, East Clark Road or in front of houses. Vendors were to park only at All Saints Church and GALA would put up signs to make this parking restriction clear. Arnold said GALA would also have someone on site to manage parking.

Selectman Sarah Silk said that the previous Monday evening, May 18, the Agricultrual Commission had voted to support the move of the farmers' market from Clarke Plaza to Clark Park. She pointed out that the license requires vendors to park offsite.

Selectman Kristi Ginter moved to change the setup start time from noon to 11:30 to make sure all vendors would have time to be ready by market opening at 1 p.m. Use of the site would be limited to 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., allowing a half hour for break down and clean up of the site.

Ginter asked if GALA would be willing to consider alternate sites in future years. Arnold responded yes, but said he hoped abutters will also reconsider after the first season.

Murray pointed out that under the terms of the license it can be terminated at any time.

Senecal then opened the floor to additional public input.

Frank Blundo complained that all nine year-round abutters are against granting the licenses: "Don't we count?" he asked. As for Arnold's offer to meet he said the abutters did not want to meet because they were opposed – period.

Wolfeboro Parks and Recreation Director Ethan Hipple spoke in favor of granting the license. "It's a delightful use of the park," he said, adding that he hoped GALA would be sensitive to the concerns of abutters. "It's being held in a park which is everyone's park."

Conservation Commission and Agricultural Commission member Mike Hodder agreed with Hipple. "It is a pubic park, not a private park," he said. "It's only one day a week and a boon to the town."

Ginter moved to approve the license provided the changes proposed by Murray were made. Selectman Marge Webster seconded. The vote to approve was unanimous.

Other business

Town Benefits Administrator Jeff Urquhart and Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Christine Collins received board approval to hold an Employee Appreciation Day on Friday, Sept. 11, at Albee Beach from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. In case of rain the event would be held at the Municipal Electric building, site of the first Employee Appreciation Day last year. Ginter questioned whether the day could be moved to Saturday to allow spouses and children to attend, but the rest felt that holding the event on a work day and limiting it to employees, town board members and selectmen (as was done last year) was the best arrangement. Selectmen voted to contributed $500 to the cost of the event.

Urquhart also received board approval to move the time of wellness classes from 4 p.m. to earlier in the day so that "lunch and learn" and stress management programs put on by the Local Government Center could be offered to more employees. He reported that 4 p.m. classes were not well-attended. The benefit to the town would be in reduced health insurance claims and costs. Webster said she supports the proposal 100 percent. "It's a win-win in my experience."

Selectmen also approved a one-year trial of keeping beach parking lots unlocked from mid-April to the end of September, with signs posted stating that the parking lots and beaches are closed from dusk to dawn. Hipple made the proposal to allow residents greater access to the beaches and permit police to patrol the beaches instead of being stopped at the gates. Police Chief Stuart Chase approved of the plan and all selectmen but Murray voted for the one-year trial. Murray was concerned about vandalism and potential danger to unsupervised swimmers from the swim docks at Brewster Beach.

Ginter reported that the planning board will have a town natural resources inventory presentation on June 16. The board also felt that an energy chapter should be added to the town's Master Plan.

Planners also recommended to selectmen that two tax-deeded lots, one on Browns Ridge Road and another on Governor Wentworth Highway, be retained for conservation purposes. Silk said that the Agriculture Commission also recommended keeping the same two lots.

Murray reported that she went to a Jordan Institute presentation on green buildings at the library on May 19. She said the best practice to save energy is to find ways to conserve energy, then add insultation and then explore alternate energy sources. She said the library trustees were looking a proposal for green buildings in their research for a new library.

Town Manager Dave Owen reported that he had attended a Primex seminar on energy audits earlier in the day and heard that funding for audits would be offered as part of the stimulus plan. He said he plans to apply as soon as funds become available.

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