Many residents and farmers spoke in favor of the special permit for the new location for the Coventry Regional Farmer's Market at the Dec. 12, 2011 public hearing, while others asked the PZC to take a careful look at the proposal and cited concerns about road maintenance, traffic, gravel dust and noise. Photo by Sarah L. Hamby
The Coventry Farmers Market will live to fight another day, but its future is still uncertain.
A crowded planning and zoning commission public hearing Monday night at Coventry High School did not conclude with a decision.
Market organizers need a special permit in order to relocate to a site on Silver Street.
At the close of Monday’s hearing, the PZC decided to keep the hearing open tentatively until a January 2012 meeting.
For the last few years, the market has been located at the Nathan Hale Homestead but after not being able to negotiate a workable deal with the agency that governs the property, Connecticut Landmarks, the market’s organizers began looking for a new site.
The special permit would allow the Bridges Healthy Cooking School/Coventry Regional Farmers Market to operate from a privately owned site at 307 Silver St. in Coventry.
According to Jonathon DeHoyos, parking facilities manager with the farmers market, the new site will allow for more than 500 parking spaces, more than two additional acres of market space, and significantly more event space, as well. Street parking would not be necessary or authorized.
Coventry Farmers Market director Winter Caplanson pointed out that for some local farmers, the market represents 80 percent of their income. Photo by Sarah L. Hamby
Market organizers tried at Monday’s meeting to convince the PZC that establishing the market at the new site should not require a traffic study, which could cost upwards of $20,000.
Former Hebron Harvest Fair manager Peter Cafazzo, who was attending the hearing on behalf of the market, addressed the possible traffic concerns on Silver Street and Route 44. “With my background,” he said, “I don’t see any major problems.”
The Hebron Harvest Fair draws several thousand motorists from all over New England each September, with traffic on Route 85 in Hebron packed with fair visitors.
Engineer Peter Henry of Holmes & Henry Associates also described the design for the drive that would be created to access the market site. He said the approximately 600- foot driveway will begin as a paved access road and then transition to gravel after about 100 feet.
At 24 feet wide, it will meet the requirements of local emergency, medical and fire personnel who may need to access the site, Henry said.
Many residents and farmers spoke in favor of the special permit’s approval last night, while others asked the PZC to take a careful look at the proposal and cited concerns about road maintenance, traffic, gravel dust and noise.
Bill Glenney, a Silver Street resident, addressed the commission to oppose the project. He said traffic issues associated with motorists leaving the market had not been addressed.
He also wondered who would foot the bill for the maintenance and repair of Silver Street, a road that he said would see an additional 4,000 to 5,000 cars each month during the market season.
“We are not against farmers or farming,” he said, “(but) I strongly recommend that you disapprove this special permit.”
Supporters expressed a need to maintain the small business economy provided by the local farming community.
Market executive director Winter Caplanson pointed out that the Coventry Regional Farmers market represents 20 to 80 percent of some farmers’ entire farm sales.
This was confirmed by Scotland’s Erica Andrews of Hurricane Farm, who said at least 80 percent of her income is earned in Coventry.
Coventry Town Planner Eric Trott said the PZC simply needs more time to make an informed decision regarding the special permit after receiving significant public input, both in favor and opposed.
Trott said “the applicant did a good job in providing a litany of detail that helped to clarify the issues between the Hale Homestead and the new market.”
In a Facebook posting on Tuesday, Caplanson said that the town will not require a traffic study.
Trott said whether the state will require a traffic study is up to the State Traffic Commission.”We don’t have any bearing on that,” he said.
Trott confirmed this morning that the public hearing will reconvene in January, but said the Jan. 4 date and meeting place are tentative. To confirm the date and time, visit the town’s web site at www.coventryct.org or call the PZC office at (860) 742-4062 during office hours.
Posted Dec. 14, 2011 as edited and added to by HTNP.com Editor Brenda Sullivan
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