Sentiment on the Woodside Town Council is running in favor of a second farmers' market, this one downtown on Saturdays, though where and when are uncertain.
Responding to a January proposal by Maggie Foard, who manages a Wednesday afternoon farmers' market in Skylonda, the council on Feb. 26 asked staff to investigate the idea of a Saturday market in a public parking lot outside Town Hall. But while approval for the Skylonda market in September 2012 happened in short order, this one may take some time.
The proposed parking lot sits inside a formal parking district and is shared by a collection of shops, offices and restaurants along Woodside Road west of the Pioneer Saloon. Parking is a hot-potato issue in downtown Woodside because open parking spots are often so hard to find. Merchants report seeing potential customers fruitlessly search for parking and then drive away.
Two priorities among several for town staff going forward: sound out the downtown merchants on this proposal, and research the legalities of hosting a market within a public parking district, council members said.
A vocal community has shown its support for a second market. Staff have received around 150 messages asking the council to approve one, Town Manager Kevin Bryant said.
Ms. Foard spoke briefly. With her were several farming participants in the Wednesday market. "We would love to be your farmers' market association," Ms. Foard said. "You can own us. We want you to own us."
Jamie Kerr, a co-owner of Alice's Restaurant located across Skyline Boulevard from the Wednesday market, had a positive message for downtown retailers. "Being a local business, we've only seen our business grow," he said. "You have a lot more foot traffic in this area. People won't be going to Whole Foods (market). You'll still sell your salad dressing."
A few residents spoke up urging the council to find a way to make a second market happen.
"In the last 40 years, the United States has lost more than a million farmers," said Tom Johnson. "Where's our food going to come from?" Mr. Johnson, a member of the Arts & Cultural Affairs Committee, called the idea of a downtown market "a fabulous cultural event."
Resident Virginia Dare asked the council to consider the messages received. "With 150 letters of support, I think it's clear that the time has come."
"This isn't just a local community issue," she added. "(It's about) the local surrounding community that supports Woodside and that Woodside can support." If the discussion gets hung up on public parking lots, a resolution could take six months or a year, she said. The council should direct staff to consider alternative locations. "It would be great if this could happen in the next three months."
Thalia Lubin of the town's History Committee considered an upside in foot traffic for the community museum -- if the market were held in the public parking lot at a time when the museum is open.
Councilman Dave Burow voiced support but cautioned against harming downtown merchants.
Councilman Ron Romines asserted that a Saturday market has "huge support" but that the "huge challenge" is parking.
"I want this to work," Mayor Anne Kasten said in closing. "I don't want it to have problems." She then thanked the farmers for taking the time to come to the meeting.