By Sally Voth
The Mt. Jackson Farmers' Market has closed for the season before it even opened.
Owner Gerald Forsburg said the decision was "forced" by the Town Council.
Two summers ago, Forsburg, an architect, opened the farmers' market outside the former Farmers Supply Inc. building at 5973 King St.
He intends to turn the 9,00-square-foot building, which he owns, into a two-level indoor market, with shops selling everything from fish and grass-fed pastured meats, to doughnuts, dairy products, pottery, soaps and candles, clothing and jewelry, according to his web site, www.mjfarmersmarket.com.
However, on Tuesday, he posted on his site that the market wouldn't be open this season because of permit issues.
Town Manager Clark Draper said Thursday the farmers' market operates under a special-use permit. The site is zoned downtown commercial, he said.
That zone requires a hard-surfaced parking lot, Draper said. He said the town allowed the market to operate last season without doing the paving first, but Forsburg was told to bring the site into compliance.
"He's asked for a couple of extensions, and they were granted," Draper said. "The last extension we gave him was last summer."
At that time, Forsburg was told the market couldn't open this season unless the parking lot was paved, Draper said.
He said Forsburg came to the Town Council's meeting on Tuesday asking for another extension.
"The council agreed to grant an extension until July 1," Draper said.
At that point, the lot would have to be paved, he said.
"There were a number of other commercial endeavors in town that needed to have paved parking lots and they came in compliance, and Mr. Forsburg was the remaining one that didn't come in compliance," Draper said. "Of course, [the council members] wanted Mr. Forsburg and the farmers' market to succeed."
On Thursday, Forsburg said he fully intends to pave the lot.
"However, we don't have the building renovated yet...typically, your parking lot is the last thing you put in so you don't tear it up with traffic," he said.
Forsburg said Tuesday's request was only the second extension he'd sought.
"It's really not unheard of for people to ask for extensions," he said. "The council's decision forced us to make a decision."
While he said he hopes to have the paving finished as soon as possible, Forsburg said he wasn't comfortable committing to a July 1 deadline.
The market's farmers are now planting crops they would sell at the market, he said.
"Their heavy sales season doesn't start until July," Forsburg said. "If we followed through with the Town Council's suggestion, we could actually be in a situation where the market has to close and those vendors...are out money."
The greater plans for the building are all by-right uses, Forsburg said.
"We would've loved to have had it open by now," he said. "At this stage, we will do the work as we can and as resources permit."
Forsburg said the project "absolutely" would come to fruition.
"Who knows?" he said. "It might take six months. It might take six years. It might take five years. We own the building.
"It's unfortunate that town codes require as much as they do. It's onerous on small businesses in particular. It feels like the only way you can do business is if you're a corporation with deep pockets. We're not that."
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org