AUGUSTA — A unanimous City Council vote to approve the use of a former church building on State Street has farmers who sell their goods every Tuesday at the Farmers’ Market at Mill Park preparing to move out of the cold and into a new winter home.

Councilors approved a contract zone agreement Thursday that will allow the farmers’ market to move into the former Elim Christian Fellowship church building at 70 State St. for the colder months.

Retail use is not allowed otherwise in the BP, or Business Professional, zoning district, which includes the area where the building is located.

The winter market site will open on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 28, and will be open every Tuesday thereafter, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. until spring, when the market will move back to its regular spot under the pavilion at Mill Park, just north of downtown.

Farmers said they’re happy to have the zoning issue addressed and are looking forward to getting into the building and out of the cold.

“It’s nice to have that out of the way,” said Kelby Young, of Olde Haven Farm in Chelsea, who serves as a liaison between the farmers’ market and the Augusta Downtown Alliance. “Farmers are outside most of the week anyway, so it will be nice to have that block of time, inside, with a bit of warmth.”

Before they open, they’ve got some more work to do, on top of work they’ve already done to make the building, and a parking lot they plan to use across the street, ready.

Young said farmers moved ahead with preparations at the site in anticipation of the council’s affirmative vote to approve the zoning agreement, which was recommended to the council by the Planning Board.

Work so far has included putting in a ramp so people with disabilities can enter the former church building and cleaning up a parking lot that is diagonally across the street. It had become overgrown with weeds and brush.

The lot is the site of the former YMCA building and belongs to local businessman Lon Walters.

Richard Parkhurst, who owns the former Elim church building, as well as buildings in the city’s downtown, just down the hill from State Street, said he has an agreement with Walters that allows the market to use the parking lot at no charge, but the market will be responsible for cleaning up the overgrown dirt lot, maintaining it and plowing it.

Young said the farmers’ group is seeking a firm to plow the lot for the winter. He said none of the vendors involved in the market have a plow truck.

The market is not expected to pay rent for its space in the building, but it is responsible for the cost of making upgrades to the building needed for the market, and it is expected to pay a prorated share of the utilities in the building.

Farmers involved in the market also are hoping to raise $3,500 to $5,000 to help cover the costs of the move and maintaining the parking lot. So far they’ve raised about $500.

They have a page to raise money to help pay costs associated with the move.

Market participants are planning a “painting party” Nov. 22 to improve the appearance of the interior of the winter market’s new home.

Volunteers can sign up to join the paint party on the market’s Facebook page or by emailing Young at [email protected]

Young said they’ve signed up four new vendors for the winter market, where there will be about a dozen vendors for the season, including “everything from fresh meat to fresh vegetables to jams and jelly and honey, and hot soup.”

City councilors, on a motion from Ward 2 Councilor Darek Grant, waived a normally required second reading on the agreement to allow the market, which would have required a vote at a second council meeting, to avoid delaying the market’s opening.

Matt Nazar, the city’s development director, said the contract zoning agreement adds only the specific use as a farmers’ market to the uses already allowed at the 70 State St. site, and only for up to six hours a week. He said the agreement allowing that use in the building will remain in place even if the Farmers’ Market at Mill Park doesn’t remain at the site.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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