It's not often that I can say I have an exclusive news story but that is the case today because I'm right in the middle of it. The Department of Revenue of the State of Washington is taking action against churches that are holding Farmers' Markets in their parking lots removing the non-profit exempt status of those pieces of property being used by the market. This will impact the Millwood Farmers' Market which I help manage, the South Perry Market and the downtown market, all which are hosted on church, heretofore non-profit exempt, property. It will also impact any number of other markets throughout the state that meet on non-profit exempt property.
The Millwood property in question probably won't be appraised at a high enough value to impact that market too much. The South Perry Market is already being told that they will likely have to look for a new location, and I haven't heard from the downtown folks. The value of the downtown parcel is probably too valuable to make paying the property taxes a viable option. According to a Spokane County parcel search, the whole parcel is listed at over $1.5 million dollars in value. I don't have direct information on the downtown market's situation so I'll correct the information on this post right away if I hear differently. In the short-term nothing has changed for any of the markets so they will all be up and running, business as usual until things are sorted out.
I've gone over the applicable statutes and regulations and it appears that according to the letter of the law the actions of the Department of Revenue are "correct" but it's clearly an action that will disrupt and potentially harm the community. Some sort of legislative action is probably the best option but that will have to wait for January of 2010.
So look for a time of adjustment and adaptation in the Spokane Farmers' Market community. Hopefully things will sort themselves out and maybe even better locations can be found for some of the markets.