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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Apr. 14, 200412:00 PM EST

Farmers market legislation filed

by: J. Brooks Terry

by J. Brooks Terry

Staff Writer

Downtown Vision, Inc.’s Farmers Market will move to Hemming Plaza by the end of the month, just weeks before the City Council is expected to pass legislation establishing new market rules and regulations.

Making an introduction at Tuesday’s Council meeting, the ordinance more clearly defines “open air market” while also creating specific guidelines for participating vendors.

Once enacted, periodic site visits by the City’s Consumer Affairs Division are also expected to take place.

The market debuted nearly three years ago.

As it continued to grow, so did its logistical issues, which included a lack of parking and a shaky relationship with the City and area businesses near its old location.

A temporary closing was narrowly avoided last year when DVI said work to draft legislation would take place.

DVI marketing director Lyn Briggs explained the need for legislation: “Another thing we wanted to do was to establish DVI as the sole manager for the market.”

Currently, market merchants are licensed through the City.

“We thought setting it up that way would be better than having the vendors pull their own permits,” she said. “We wanted to establish our own standard, because this is something we are proud of. It encourages more activity downtown.

“And they’ll still have to have insurance and be required to meet safety standards. It’s just that, once this passes, DVI will be the one pulling the permit and that will allow us to be more organized and eventually add more vendors to it.”

Briggs said nonprofit and cultural groups will also be invited to the market.

Council member Suzanne Jenkins, who worked with DVI for several months to draft the legislation, said she looks forward to seeing it passed quickly.

“We’ve been working hard on this since January because, even though we knew we needed something in place, we wanted to be sure it wouldn’t have unintended consequences,” she said. “We tried to be as thorough as possible.”

In addition to establishing Hemming Plaza regulations, provisions for potential markets in other locations, including Riverplace Drive and both the North and Southbank Riverwalks have been outlined.

“There may be more fine tuning as it moves though committee,” said Jenkins, “but I think it looks good and can work for everyone involved, including the City, the vendors and DVI as the entity overseeing it.”

Briggs said after a “soft” late April reopening, a grand opening party will take place shortly after the bill is approved.

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