While Spokane Valley city officials will be happy to provide the plot of land, whether or not a farmers market eventually grows there will be left to its citizens.
On Tuesday, council members heard a report from Mike Stone, director of parks and recreation, who said there were plenty of things to consider before a farmers market takes root on city-owned property, such as where to put it. Stone suggested that the future expanded Balfour Park/library location at Herald and Sprague, which may not be developed for years, might work.
Farmers markets have cropped up throughout the area, with popular examples of local growers showcasing their wares in Spokane, Liberty Lake and Millwood – even a new one in Veradale -- on a regular basis. Music and other entertainment are not uncommon, and Stone said.
“It’s definitely an option,” Stone said, adding that considerable work would have to be done if it were to ever happen near the Balfour Park location this year.
First, the city would need someone to operate the market, as the city currently has no one on staff with the experience to do the job properly, Stone said. Then the site would have to be prepared to meet all city and health district codes for vendors and the operation of the market.
“There will be an initial capital outlay,” Stone said, adding that water, electricity, trash removal and restroom facilities would all need to be considered.
Many of the existing farmers markets operate on different days of the week in order to spread out vendors, minimize competition and develop a customer base.
“I think the question is, what are the next steps?” Stone asked, adding that a farmers market would likely not be a moneymaker for the city. “It would offer a sense of community, which is important.”
By the time Stone got to the point of explaining the logistics special-events permits, insurance and vendor/perimeter separation, at least one council member had heard enough.
“This is bureaucracy gone amok,” said Arne Woodard. “I think we’re making it too complicated on just a rough site.”
Woodard suggested that all is really needed is a place to park and for vendors to set up. Portable restrooms would all that would really be needed.
“I don’t think we have a need for electricity,” Woodard said, adding that he doesn’t want to see a potential farmers market be city-run. “I look at all this, you’re not even going to get it off the ground.”
Stone emphasized that the city has no intention of operating a farmers market, just facilitating the process of one opening and offering the land.
“We’re just providing the venue,” he said. “If I conveyed that we want to run this as a city, nothing is further from the truth.”
Mayor Tom Towey said that the subject is just in the talking stages at this point.
“The community support is going to tell us what it’s going to look like,” he said.
Council Member Dean Grafos added that he didn’t want to see the city spend tax dollars on a farmers market.
“I don’t think it’s our duty as a city to do that,” he said.
Council Member Rod Higgins said he is still not convinced that the Balfour site would be the best spot for a farmers market. Stone said it is in a prominent spot on Sprague Avenue and could remain vacant for “two or three years” until any further development.
Woodard said that if a sign were placed on the vacant land west of Balfour Park that the city was looking for potential vendors for a farmers market, the city would have “a hundred people call.”
Council Member Chuck Hafner said he didn’t agree with that approach, especially if the council decided not to go forward with the plan.
“I think that puts the city in a terrible position,” he said.
Ultimately, the council decided to put the community to the test. Once word gets out that the property is available for possible use as a farmers market, there’s a good chance someone – or many someones – will show some interest.
“It should be done by the community if the community itself has a need for this,” Towey said. “Then we should fulfill that need the best we can.”
City Manager Mike Jackson agreed with that approach.
“Let’s see if someone will come forward,” he said.
A new market
On Tuesday, a new farmers market opened in the east end of the city at 16801 E. Sprague, in the parking lot of the Spokane Valley Eagles. The market is open from 2 to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays.