By DOTTY NIST
As National Farmer’s Market Week is observed, Walton County’s review of a proposed Farmer’s Market Ordinance applying to two of the county’s designated scenic corridors continues.
These are the U.S. 98 Scenic Corridor, which includes not only U.S. 98 but U.S. 331 south of the bay bridge, and the Route 30A Scenic Corridor.
The Route 30A Scenic Corridor applies to all properties that located contiguous to CR-30A, CR-393, or CR-395, or are contiguous to the portions of CR-83 and CR-283 that are south of U.S. 98.
Currently farmer’s markets exist in some locations—but are specifically prohibited south of the bay along the U.S. 98 Scenic Corridor (with the exception of short-term sales of seasonal agricultural products such as Christmas trees and pumpkins between Oct. 1 and Jan. 5 through an existing temporary use permit program.)
The ordinance would provide for farmer’s markets to be permitted as a temporary promotional activity within these two scenic corridors.
The Walton County Design Review Board (DRB) is tasked with recommendations associated with development on the U.S. 98 Scenic Corridor and ensuring compliance of projects with corridor standards. Board members were presented with the most recent draft of the ordinance at their Aug. 3 regular meeting at the South Walton Annex.
Presenting the draft, Vivian Shamel of Walton County Planning and Development Services explained that it was being proposed that farmer’s markets on the scenic corridor go through the county’s existing outdoor event application process for approval.
The draft provided a definition of a farmer’s market as a “cultural activity where a common facility or area is utilized and local farmers/growers gather on a regular, recurring basis to sell a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, produce, baked goods, fresh-cut flowers, and plants from independent stands directly to consumers, and consisting of no less than five (5) individual vendors.”
The draft further provided that up to 10 percent of non-food product vendors would be allowed. A requirement contained in a previous draft of the ordinance had stated that “local farmers” would be considered those within a 200-mile radius. However, that had been removed in order not to limit oranges from being sold at the markets.
The draft limited farmer’s markets on the U.S. 98 Scenic Corridor to common areas or event areas of commercial centers within approved development projects, with the markets to be located at least 150 feet from the edge of the state right-of-way adjacent to the property line.
According to the draft, signage for the farmer’s markets would be allowed only on reader boards on the main monument sign of the development.
Hours specified for the markets were four hours per day between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., with set-up time limited to one hour before opening and clean-up time limited to one hour after closing. The number of days per week the market could operate had been specified as once a week but as presented on Aug. 3 was left open for a recommendation by the DRB.
Site plan requirements contained in an earlier draft had been removed in favor of those contained in the county’s outdoor event application.
Stacey Brady, director of marketing and public relations for Grand Boulevard, told the board members that she had met with Shamel to discuss the ordinance and had recommended the approval of farmer’s markets through the county’s existing outdoor event application process. She said Grand Boulevard had started holding farmer’s markets three years ago two times a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Leigh Moore, DRB member, asked Brady if she could see the need to hold farmer’s markets more than twice a week. She answered that she could not, but that she would not want to limit others who might want to do so.
Diane Kolopanas of 30a Farmers’ Market, who is responsible for a number of farmer’s markets in Walton and Okaloosa counties, also addressed the board members. She voiced concern about the distance requirement for farmer’s markets from the state right-of-way. She said Seascape had indicated that they would like their planned farmer’s market to be located as close to U.S. 98 as possible. Kolopanas also asked for additional signage for the markets to be allowed, as some developments might not want advertising for the markets to be placed on their “marquee” or monument signs.
Kevin Boyle, events director for Seaside, requested an exemption on the weekly frequency of farmer’s markets during the holiday season.
DRB Chairman David Bailey, commented that farmer’s markets are a benefit to the community and stated his belief that these markets can “thrive” in Walton County “because of things like the Scenic Corridor.” He suggested that the committee continue the ordinance for “another go” at the ordinance.
Tom Waldrop, DRB member, agreed that the board members did not want to create a “roadblock” for farmer’s market but instead achieve a “win” for all.
On a motion by Colleen Sachs, DRB member, the ordinance was continued to the DRB’s Sept. 7 meeting for more discussion and possible action at that time. After clearing the DRB, the ordinance is to then undergo review by the Walton County Planning Commission before going before the Walton County Board of County Commissioners for final consideration.