Templeton Farmers Market hits roadblocks in pursuit of permit

You can buy all sorts of produce at the Templeton Farmers Market.
You can buy all sorts of produce at the Templeton Farmers Market. ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

Operating without a street permit for about two years, the Templeton Farmers Market is now bumping heads with local officials on how to set up their event.

Applying for a new permit has prompted the group to move off the street by Templeton Community Park and onto the grass, which organizers say hinders access for the disabled and the elderly.

However, local officials say that moving to the grass isn’t the only option and there are other ways to continue the event.

“It has raised all kinds of fuss, and raised all sorts of questions, on whether (officials) wanted to shut the farmer’s market down. And that’s just not the case,” San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Frank Mecham said of the permit issue.

Friday, in a private meeting, Mecham plans to meet with representatives from the group, the county and CHP to mediate the situation. He thinks they can find a solution that works for everybody.

The issue came to a head earlier this month when the county issued a cease-and-desist order on the market’s operation since the group hadn’t come to an agreement on how to handle state traffic regulations.

Law requires that manned barricades be put up to block the road if the market operates in the street. Market organizers say that requirement isn’t doable.

Furthermore, the permit issue, they say, is risking the location of the market.

Fliers detailing the association’s side of the dilemma have circulated and the situation has been chronicled on the group’s website, www.northcountyfarmersmarkets.com.

But local officials say there are alternatives to keep the market going successfully.

The market, run by the North County Farmers' Market Association, brings local farmers selling fruits and veggies together with patrons in the street by the park.

The association had a permit to operate on a public street until it expired in 2011, county deputy director of public works Dave Flynn said.

The group reapplied after county staff found the inconsistency this fall while reviewing the status of local events, Flynn said. That’s when the related traffic plan issues cropped up.

The CHP’s Templeton office says it’s been inundated with calls and emails asking why authorities are fighting the market.

“All I want is to make sure is people are safe and the farmer’s market continues,” said Lt. Chris Day, Commander of the Templeton CHP office. “I know it’s important to the community. I buy fruit myself there.”

He said he’s presented several options to the group to help keep the market going.

If the association wants vendors in the street, they need to set up manned barricades to block cars from one or both lanes in the road according to state regulations, Day said.

If the market doesn’t operate in the street, or does and leaves room for two lanes of traffic, the barricade requirement isn’t needed and the permit can be approved without CHP involvement, Day said.

The barricade issue, according to the group’s newsletter, would be a financial burden. But volunteers who receive instruction from the CHP can do it for free, Day said.

The group didn’t say why it believes the market needs to pay someone.

Since Day’s first involvement on the issue began this year, he said he didn’t know how the market has operated in the street before or why it went without a permit for so long.

Regardless, he said it’s his job to make sure the law is followed.

Market manager Sandra Dimond declined to answer questions on the issue until after Friday’s meeting. She did issue a statement saying the association hopes the issues can be resolved.