By Ryan Cornell
MOUNT JACKSON -- One local business owner says Mount Jackson's town code favors vendors from out of town.
Gerald Forsburg, an architect and designer, owned the Mount Jackson Farmers Market on King Street until he was forced to close for violating an ordinance that requires businesses to operate on paved parking lots.
Before shutting down the farmers market last year, he said there were 16 vendors bringing 150 people into town on Saturday mornings.
"Now when you get to town, it's empty," he said.
Forsburg said various ordinances in Mount Jackson make it easier for out-of-town businesses to operate.
"For $125 [annual peddler's permit fee], anybody from out of town can roll into town and set up shop where they want and they don't have to pay town taxes or anything else," he said.
He said his farmers market had to pay double that amount, a one-time fee of $250 for a special use permit, to be allowed to operate.
"The whole peddler's permit should be more difficult for someone out of town to show up here and take away opportunities for local people rather than vice versa," he said. "It makes more sense to live out of town and run a business in town."
A few months after his farmers market opened in 2011, Forsburg was told by Town Council to remove the off-premise signs and sandwich board signs that advertised his business. However, he said a produce stand currently set up near the Sheetz truck stop has off-premise signs frequently displayed near the north- and southbound off ramps from Interstate 81.
Forsburg added that the produce stand's location next to the busy intersection is a dangerous spot that presents safety risks.
Mount Jackson Mayor Bucky Miller said he has yet to see the off-site signs referenced by Forsburg, and responded to his comments.
"[Forsburg is] upset with the whole situation over the farmers market and he has been for some time and it's sad that it had to be like this, but he's upset," Miller said.
Councilman Ken Hackenbracht, who declined to comment on the off-premise signs, said parts of the town code identifying farmers markets and produce stands is unclear. He said the town will work on clarifying the language and will research how other municipalities address farmers markets.
"I think that's something that's going to need to be resolved," he said. "What constitutes a farmers market and what constitutes these individual people."
Forsburg said he would like to see Town Council act more accommodating toward local business owners, rather than punishing them for violating a minor ordinance.
"I have no problems with the individuals [who run to produce stand], I want them to succeed," he said. "But there seems to be a problem with economic development in Mount Jackson for anybody who isn't one or two businesses in town."
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org