Historic Commission to review growers market Oak Street move tonight

The Historic Commission will tonight review the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market's proposal to close Oak Street to vehicle traffic and sell produce there on Saturdays beginning this spring.

The public comment period on the conditional-use permit application closes at 5 p.m. today, said Derek Severson, associate city planner.

City officials expect to make a final decision on the proposal as early as March 9, he said.

"I do hope that it's approved by the city and the Historic Commission," said Heidi Dawn, Saturday market manager. "I think the market in that location's going to be a great addition to community and great place to pick up veggies."

The Historic Commission meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the Community Development Building's Siskiyou Room, 51 Winburn Way.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the city had received two comments on the project, both of which expressed concern about the street closure, Severson said.

"We're working with the applicant to address those concerns," he said.

The Oregon Department of Transportation wrote to request that the Oak Street closure not conflict with its repair of the Lithia Way Bridge over Water Street between late March and mid May.

Severson said the growers market has agreed to hold the first few market days at its old location on the corner of First Street and Lithia Way and will wait until the bridge work is completed before opening on Oak Street.

The owner of the Ashland Liquor Store, which is accessed off of Oak Street, wanted to ensure the closure didn't limit access to his shop, Severson said. Heidi Dawn, Saturday market manager, said the gate closing Oak Street would be placed at an angle to allow access to the liquor store and that market officials would police the liquor store parking lot to ensure market customers don't park in there.

City planners sent out notices about the proposal to property owners within a 200-foot radius of the street and also posted notices on the street.

"Right now we're just sort of in the comment period, waiting," Severson said. "Then staff will have a week to make a decision."

The growers market has been scrambling for a new location after it lost its seasonal lease this year at the vacant lot where the market was held for the past three years.

Premier West Bank obtained the property, once slated for a commercial and residential development, from former City Councilman Russ Dale in lieu of foreclosure and has only offered the market a month-to-month lease, Dawn said.

According to the market's permit request, gates would close Oak Street to vehicle traffic between East Main Street and Lithia Way from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday the market is open. The market operates from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. between May and October.

The proposal also would limit the number of vendors to 30, because of space constraints, and wouldn't allow the sale of hot, prepared food, Dawn said. The market had 30 vendors at the beginning of last season and Dawn added 20 additional vendors, some of which sold hot or prepared food, she said.

The cost of the move will be relatively minimal and has already been factored into last year's and this year's budget, so vendors' membership fees won't increase, Dawn said.

"Right now we're going through the city process, which is pretty standard," she said, "and so far it's going smoothly."

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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