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City officials will meet Friday to discuss logistics behind request to close Second St. for farmers market

The community is apparently hyped about Boyle County Farmers Market returning to its old stomping grounds — at Constitution Square Park. It’s a central location in downtown many are able to get to on foot, some say; magistrates at fiscal court last week even spoke of turning the area into more of a marketplace during the Saturday mornings if farmers are able to set up there, in order to drive downtown foot traffic.

But the plan would require shutting down Second Street, which is the same width as the parking lot where the market has been setting up at Danville High School. Convention & Visitors Bureau Director Jennifer Kirchner told the fiscal court she contacted City Manager Ron Scott about the road closure, and that he was willing and open to have that conversation.

During Monday night’s Danville City Commission meeting, Magistrate Rick Serres asked Scott if he “could comment on” bringing the market back downtown.

Scott said that last week, he “had some preliminary conversations with a community member. I expressed the fact the city had worked in the past to try and locate the farmers market in the downtown area. We had them on Third Street, for example, and we were open to the idea.”

But, he said the idea he was told about Second Street “may have been a little different than what came out at the fiscal court meeting.”

“My understanding was, what was requested of the city when I talked last week, was about closing some parking spaces,” Scott said.  “Now I understand they want … the whole Second Street area closed, and that will involve some conversations with our police and fire chiefs.”

He said there are safety and transportation issues that must be considered. “We have a meeting scheduled this Friday. We think it’s a great idea, but we just have to make sure we work through the details.”

Kirchner, who was not present Monday night when the comment was made, said, “I regret that Ron Scott misunderstood. It’s always been (the plan) to close Second Street.”

Kirchner said the way the farmers would be lined up on Second, next to Constitution Square, would be the same way they line up in the DHS parking lot.

“I will say that we did discuss it on a 10-minute phone conversation, right before I walked into fiscal court,” she said. Kirchner added that when the topic of moving farmers market back downtown “came up last time,” she says Scott offered for the city to close Second Street; therefore, she said she called him and said she wanted “to take him up on his offer.”

Any time a street is closed, a permit must be issued to give authority. “I also told Ron that CVB would serve as the permit applicant. I said that because it’s a street closure, and we’d be a good point of contact.”

When reached for comment Wednesday, Scott said, “Our city government’s goal … is to facilitate the relocation of a farmers market at Constitution Square. Thus, the goal is not the closure of Second Street.”

Scott said he does recall making a suggestion, several years ago, that the city could possibly close Second Street. “But that suggestion didn’t go through a complete vetting of the idea, and ultimately they moved to Danville High School.

Danville Police Chief Tony Gray said it’s a move that would definitely take some logistical planning if it is put into action.

“Could it impact some businesses? Yes, it could. Traffic flow, people taking alternate routes … People don’t realize all of those things,” he said.

Gray said other considerations to think about are the many 5K races with paths through that area and Brass Band weekend.

Gray said whichever way the city goes, there will be people who don’t like it.

“… when I close a street down, I get texts, emails and calls about why we did it, and things like that. It’s on both sides,” he said. “But it’s not up to me. I would also say this is why we need to talk about things like this, because one thing does affect the other.”

Scott concurs. He said one of the issues that needs to be “recognized by all parties” who want the market to be relocated is that the “proposed site will ‘insert’ this event into the many other special events held on city streets.”

In Friday’s upcoming staff meeting, Scott  said they must consider access issues to the hospital; routes open to residents for reaching businesses; safety issues of drivers and of farmers market providers “interacting with citizens;” determine the schedule, which he said “may be from April until October;” and “process implementation questions, such as applications, insurance requirements, cleanup, etc.”

“So, this is not just a single or simple conversation,” Scott said. After the fiscal court took the lead in voting to support the move back downtown, which Scott calls “a great idea,” they included the pending closure of Second Street in the motion.

“We are considering that, and perhaps other methods of achieving our goal of having the farmers market operate at Constitution Square.”

Scott said more details will be released after Friday’s staff meeting.

From a business perspective

“We do have concerns, but the truth is it could increase our business,” said Joedy Burke. He runs Burke’s Bakery on Main Street, just across from Constitution Square, which depends on its Saturday morning sales like any bakery does.

“The biggest concern I have is about controlling the parking of the people who run the market,” Burke said, referring to vendors.

He feels like customers who hit the market will have a potential to then hit the bakery just across the street, but those customers will park, get what they need in both places and go, he said.

“The vendors, if they are allowed to park out on Main, will park there from 9-12 that day, and tie up those spots” — something he said they’ve experienced before during festivals.

“But if they do take up the parking on Main, that will just hurt them, too,” he noted.

Burke said if the city does end up closing Second down, the vendors themselves, should be required to park there. Or, Burke said, why not have vendors park in the city parking lot, located behind the old Main Street Furniture Building.

“There’s an entire parking lot that says permit parking only, but they could designate that vendor parking, and it’d be a win-win for everyone,” Burke said. That could ensure spaces aren’t taken up on Main, leaving them open for both market and bakery customers.

Burke said in his opinion, the Second Street closure would be incredible publicity for the farmers market.

“It’s a win-win for them, too, because even if people didn’t know they were there, they will now. It’s an obstacle that will actually help them.”