Farmington council gives winter market, food vendor late approvals

While the Farmington Winter Artisans Market has been up and running for a month, the weekly Saturday event got official approval Monday from Farmington officials.

Council member Jeff Scott questioned whether the action was necessary, since the market rents space in an existing building – the Farmington Masonic Lodge at the corner of Grand River and Farmington Road. City manager David Murphy explained that the market falls under events rules approved earlier this year, because it draws more than 25 people and uses an adjacent public parking lot.

“I’m going by the policy the council put in place,” he said.

The market didn’t require special permission for previous locations, in the Old Winery/Powerhouse building and American Legion Post #346, because both had private parking, Murphy said. And while food vendors operated outdoors at those locations, the new downtown home triggers the city’s food truck policy, set for final approval December 19.

Sweet Mary Lou’s BBQ has become very popular, market manager Penny Oglesby said. The company visited the market twice, but she asked them to hold off pending council review.

Cowley, a local restaurant owner, said he would approve the market’s application, but “it’s a no on the food truck.”

“The vendor you had there twice already takes revenues outside the city, and takes revenues from an existing restaurant,” he said.

Council member Sara Bowman countered that food trucks often have followings, people who will discover downtown Farmington businesses. She thanked Oglesby for keeping the winter market going.

“It’s an opportunity for people who get used to coming downtown on Saturdays a reason to keep coming,” she said. “It’s nice to have a little bit of that carry over.”

Oglesby said she has asked several downtown restaurants to participate in early 2017, when the market will be open only on the last Saturday of the month.

The draft policy limits food trucks to three visits per year, and officials approved one more stop for Sweet Mary Lou’s, along with the scheduled 2016-2017 Farmington Winter Artisans Market dates. But Mayor Pro Tem Steven Schneemann said he would like to see more clarity in the events and food truck policies.

“I think it’s difficult for people… to understand what kind of events they can set up, when there’s misunderstanding at this table,” he said. “As this moves forward, I hope we can refine it so there’s not so much uncertainty.”