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South Portland farmers market likely to return to Hinckley Drive

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South Portland farmers market likely to return to Hinckley Drive

SOUTH PORTLAND — If the Planning Board and City Council approve, the outdoor farmers market will return to Hinckley Drive for the second straight year.

While making no decision during a Monday night workshop, City Councilors showed a willingness to vote on the location for this year after the Planning Board grants a special exception.

Council approval would come against the recommendation of City Manager Jim Gailey and department heads, including Police Chief Ed Googins, Fire Chief Kevin Guimond, Transportation and Waterfront Director Tom Meyers, Parks and Recreation Director Tex Haeuser and Deputy Director of Planning and Development Pat Doucette.

Gailey said Monday he supports a market, but not at Hinckley Drive between Cottage Road and Ocean Street, because of traffic congestion and complaints from area businesses.

"The problem, really, is closing a public street," Gailey said.

Caitlin Jordan, the Farmers Market Association president (and a Cape Elizabeth town councilor),  said Hinckley Drive is the best place for the market. She said construction work last summer in Knightville contributed as much as the market to traffic problems in the area.

"We feel Hinckley Drive is necessary if the market is to continue. Another move is just not the stability vendors are looking for,” Jordan said.

Mayor Tom Blake, and Councilors Al Livingston and Michael Pock, expressed clear support for the market on Hinckley Drive. 

Pock said it promotes business growth, and Livingston said the location deserves a second chance.

“People were not going to drive down through that mess (last year)," Livingston said. "If we are sincere, I think we owe it to them to give them one more year.”

Councilors also heard about 20 minutes of public comment from market supporters who like the Hinckley Drive location.

“I can't think of a better way to advertise (Mill Creek Park) than to have a market next to it, ” Margaret Street resident Brett Price said.

The workshop discussion followed a 90-minute council meeting, where councilors unanimously approved zoning and licensing ordinances that open the market to more varied vendors and other sites in the city, which delighted Jordan.

“All the language changes are fabulous," she said Wednesday. "But where can we go?”

Blake said he counted Councilor Melissa Linscott as the fourth opinion favoring moving ahead with an official vote. Linscott, and Councilors Linda Cohen and Patti Smith asked Jordan how the association markets itself, what data is available showing why Hinckley Drive is best, and if the market must be held on Thursdays.

Blake said he supports another year on Hinckley Drive, but suggested Bug Light Park, Stewart Morrill American Legion Post No. 35 on Broadway and the City Hall parking lot on weekends as alternate market sites.

Jordan said Hannaford Bros. officials ruled out using the supermarket parking lot on Cottage Road. Owners of the nearby Waterman Drive shopping center, which has a Shaw's supermarket, are also not interested in hosting the farmers, she said.

Jordan said she is seeking data to support the suggestion that the farmers market experienced revenue growth when it moved to Hinckley Drive from Thomas Knight Park after 2011.

She also said larger vendors participate in neighboring markets – outdoor farmers markets have been held in Falmouth, Portland and Saco on Wednesdays; in Portland on Saturdays, and in Scarborough on Sundays – making Thursday the best day to have an outdoor market in South Portland.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.