Just the Facts

Town approves placement of a new farmers market

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Dan Finnerty

The Franklin Town Council held its monthly meeting Feb. 6, during which a main focus was a street closure request for a section of Iotla Street, from May to November, for a Saturday Macon County Farmers Market. What makes this request interesting is that the current and long-running Franklin Farmers Market is located just a couple blocks away on East Palmer Street. It operates within the same weekly timeframe as the new market.

Devon Dupuis, owner of Mackenna Street Media, spoke to the request. 

“This farmers market was designed with three main benefits in mind: A high traffic venue for the vendors, which would include local growers, food producers, bakers, crafters, and food trucks … more access to local, healthy foods for our community, and economic benefit for the businesses downtown.”

FRANKLIN FARMERS Market has been in operation Saturdays on East Palmer Street for many years; however, the Town Council recently approved street closures on Iotla Street, beginning each Saturday from May to November, for a new farmers market.

The market intends to have a multi-faceted approach. The organization has applied for 501(c)3 status, is applying for multiple grants, and is soliciting sponsorship to support its proposed operations. Dupuis also advised council members that the market has applied for various food programs, stating the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted it as a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), accepting payment through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.

In addition to those potential benefits, Dupuis reported that an anonymous local nonprofit has offered to provide a “produce purchase guarantee.” Every Saturday the market operates, the nonprofit entity will visit at its close and purchase up to $1,000 worth of perishable produce and then donate it to Macon County CareNet. 

Along with vendor presence, numerous activities designed to generate more interest and attendance will be offered. Weekly live music and “enrichment activities” could include cooking demonstrations, food cultivation, live pollinator demonstrations, and “anything else that can help preserve assets involved with food cultivation in the region,” advised Dupuis.

Council members Joe Collins and Rita Salain posed questions on how this new operation will affect the current farmers market that has existed for some years on East Palmer Street. Dupuis professed the two are separate entities and structured quite differently. She proposed a call-out process her organization will be undertaking on behalf of the E. Palmer Street vendors, inviting them to apply for participation in the new market. The request was approved unanimously by the council.

Street closure requests

Ten-year old Gracie Parker submitted a request for a street closure in support of her second annual Why Us Kids Youth Mental Health event. The date requested is Saturday, April 27, (May 5 in the event of inclement weather) from 12-6 p.m. with the proposed area to include Iotla and Church streets. A march is also scheduled to begin at the courthouse and proceed to Town Hall. Activities include vendor tables, a bounce house, rock painting, a scavenger hunt, and more.

TEN-YEAR-OLD Gracie Parker submitted a request for a street closure in support of her second annual Why Us Kids-sponsored Youth Mental Health event.

“As a small token of my appreciation for all your (Town Council) support, I would like to present you with a book I wrote last September, called ‘Shattered,’” said Gracie.

The book includes 21 stories of lives broken by substance abuse and how to put the pieces back together. Parker also lobbied for trauma counselors in area K-12 schools in order to improve existing programs for mental health – prevention vs. intervention. Council members issued unanimous approval. 

The last request, from Artisan Alley, was for a Phillips Street closure from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on March 23, April 13 and 27 (Saturdays) for craft shows. Donna Scuncio, speaking for the organization, stated they expect between 35 and 50 vendors to participate in the event. This request was likewise approved by the council.

Employees recognized

Four public service employees were recognized during the meeting, with Police Chief Devin Holland promoting Garrett Hovis to the rank of sergeant. Holland also introduced two new officer trainees – Levi Ledford and Logan Mack. Jason Hopkins, Public Works waste water treatment plant supervisor, recognized Cody Cabe for achieving his Wastewater Biological Grade certification.

JASON HOPKINS, Public Works wastewater treatment plant supervisor, recognized Cody Cabe for achieving his Wastewater Biological Grade certification at the Feb. 6 town council meeting.

Rezoning requests discussed

Town Planner Justin Setser continued his department’s ongoing efforts for various rezoning projects around the town. A public hearing was approved at the January meeting to focus on rezoning requests covering various parcels located within the parameters of Cherry and Second streets that included 22 parcels. Council members conceded the project is still too potentially disruptive for existing residents to approve. Ultimately, it was again tabled without any definitive pathway ahead established. 

Two new public hearings were also requested at the meeting, both for the March 4 Town Council session. One, for public input on a text amendment to Chapter 152 (Temporary Use Permit) and the other for an additional rezoning request that includes 115 parcels. Both requests were submitted by Setser on behalf of the Planning Department and approved by the Council. The temporary use permit would be for recreational vehicle or camper residence while owners are building or remodeling a home for up to a 12-month period. One six-month extension would also be authorized if necessary.

Other business

Town Manager Amie Owens requested approval for a task order in support of the Wilkie Street Sewer Project. With the existing gravity sewer line nearing end-of-life service and numerous backups experienced recently, a replacement is needed. The total proposed cost is $45,000, which was approved by council members, allowing construction to begin as soon as July of this year.

Lastly, Franklin Mayor Jack Horton assigned some council members to liaison positions: Joe Collins will continue as the ABC board liaison and David Culpepper will serve on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Committee. Salain agreed to represent on the Southwestern North Carolina Home Consortium Committee, while newest member Robbie Tompa will serve on the local Ordinance Review Committee. Mike Lewis will assume duties with the Macon Program for Progress and Vice Mayor Stacy Guffey will be the Economic Development Committee representative.

The next Town Council meeting will be held Monday, March 4, at 6 p.m.