WATERVILLE — The location of this year’s Downtown Waterville Farmers Market is up in the air as market vendors and owners of businesses on Common Street appear to disagree on the layout of the market and plan to discuss options.

City councilors on Tuesday postponed until Feb. 20 voting on whether to close Common Street on Thursdays this year for the market to allow both sides to come to an agreement. The market was held on Common Street last year.

City Councilor Winifred Tate, D-Ward 6, volunteered to set up meetings for discussions. Tate represents downtown as part of her ward.

On Tuesday, Hanne Tierney, who manages the farmers market and sells produce from Cornerstone Farm, which she and her husband, Dan, own in Palmyra, told councilors vendors enjoyed the location on Common Street next to Castonguay Square in 2017. The spot provides shade, the area is protected from the wind and people like the green space next to the street, according to Tierney. She said more than 50 percent of market patrons say they also shop at other businesses when they patronize the farmers market.

But Bill Mitchell, owner of GHM Insurance Agency on Main Street, the Proper Pig restaurant on Common Street and two buildings at 14-24 Common that house an Edward Jones office and A&L Barbershop, said that while he supports having the farmers market downtown, it hinders visibility of businesses on the street. He said that if one wants a viable business downtown, it must have full exposure.

Mitchell said he philosophically agrees that Castonguay Square should be used for community gatherings such as the farmers market, but closing Common Street every Thursday during warmer months blocks businesses, and that’s a problem.

He said he asked market representatives if they could move the vendors from the south side of the street to the north side to make the sidewalk by businesses more pedestrian-friendly, but they were not willing to do that.

“I’m very much in favor of the farmers market. I think it’s a great thing for downtown Waterville,” Mitchell said.

He said there are alternatives if the market will not move to the Castonguay Square side of the street. He recommended that the south end of The Concourse near the Cancun restaurant on Silver Street be considered for the market.

Council Chairman Steve Soule, D-Ward 1, asked Tierney if the market would be willing to move to the north side of Common Street. Tierney said that would not work because the curve of the roadway does not allow enough room for vendors. She said marketers would consider moving to that side of the street late in the season, but she does not think it would work in mid-season, as farmers have so much produce and items for sale.

Al Hodsdon, owner of A. E. Hodsdon Consulting Engineers, on Common Street, reiterated what Mitchell said about accessibility to businesses.

When the farmers market moved to Common Street last year, there were no tenants in his downstairs space; but now there are tenants, and 30 to 50 clients a day enter the business, according to Hodsdon. He said the farmers market made it difficult for clients to get to the business.

Hodsdon said everyone enjoys the farmers market and it is a valuable resource, but having the market on The Concourse, across from the Cancun restaurant, would allow it to be more central in the city, with potentially more room. Also, the street would not have to be closed down for the market, he said.

“It has a lot of advantages,” Hodsdon said. “It’s a different location, but I think it would work.”

Mayor Nick Isgro asked if a councilor would be willing to spearhead discussion about the issue, and Tate said she would do that. She said she thinks there is good will on both sides.

“So I’d be happy to arrange those meetings if that would be agreeable,” she said.

Councilor Nick Champagne, R-Ward 5, abstained from voting on the issue, as he works for A.E. Hodsdon.

A decision was made to move the farmers market from the northeast corner of The Concourse to Common Street in 2017, as Colby College was making plans to build a mixed-use residential complex on The Concourse site.

Until postponement of the issue occurred, the council on Tuesday had been scheduled to consider voting to close Common Street for the farmers market from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays from April 26 through Nov. 15 for 2018.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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