The city of Spokane Valley is contemplating possible locations for a farmers market. A location was last discussed in 2013 when the city focused on Balfour Park – across the street from the new city hall where a library was proposed – but no development has happened there.
Spokane Valley Parks Director Mike Stone presented five potential locations on city-owned property at this week’s city council meeting Tuesday: the horse arena at Valley Mission Park, the south parking lot also in Valley Mission Park, Balfour Park, the parking lot at the new city hall and Castle Park.
Stone said the locations had been evaluated and scored on factors such as access to water and power, parking availability, restrooms and whether there were nearby grocery stores that would compete with the market.
“And visibility. We are looking for a site that’s visible from a major arterial,” Stone said, adding that public transportation was part of the consideration.
There are eight farmers markets in the greater Spokane area, including one in Liberty Lake and one in Millwood, but none in Spokane Valley proper.
From late spring until late fall, one of those markets is open every weeknight from Wednesday through Saturday, Stone said, adding that it could be tricky to pick the right weekday.
Every Spokane Valley location would need some type of upgrade. The Balfour Park location, for instance, would need a parking lot and utility connections at the potential cost of $83,000.
At the other end of the price scale is the parking lot at the new city hall, which could be made market-ready for less than $10,000.
Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard reminded everyone that there was a smaller market near Castle Park for a couple of years, but it didn’t make it. It would cost around $80,000 to get that site ready for a farmers market, and a parking lot would eat up a lot of the land.
“I don’t think that’s a good location,” Woodard said.
Stone said the best location would be the south parking lot at Valley Mission Park. That could also be made ready for an estimated $9,000.
Stone said the location is near Spokane Valley Partners community garden and a possible partnership could be explored.
However, it’s not clear who would operate a farmers market. Stone said parks department staff don’t have time to do it, so a market manager would have to be found.
Most farmer markets are operated by nonprofit organizations on land that’s leased to them at very little or no cost, and they are managed by a volunteer or a paid manager.
Stone said he’s not aware of another market that’s managed and operated by a city.
“We could contract with an operator,” Stone said, adding that would relieve the city of most liability connected to the market.
Stone said the city could still review bylaws and approve them.
Councilman Ed Pace said he helped start the Chewelah farmers market and there should be some rules about what could be sold, “if we want a quality market.”
Pace said he didn’t want farmers to haul in produce grown far away.
Woodard said it would be best for the city to “just set up a table and get out of the way” because farmers markets grow best on their own.
No one has asked to operate a farmers market in Spokane Valley, Stone said.
Liberty Lake’s farmers market succeeded because people “just showed up” and sold things off pickup trucks, Woodard said.
When the Liberty Lake Farmers Market was founded in 2002, just eight farmers were there. Now around 50 show up for market on Saturdays, according to the market’s website.
The Spokane Farmers Market went through several iterations and locations before it settled in its current home: a field on Fifth Avenue between Division and Browne streets.
That field is owned by Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, and when the market moved there in 2010, the hospital agreed to lease the land for two years for $1 annually and half the cost of property taxes. The Wednesday and Saturday markets have been there since.
Popular neighborhood markets in Spokane include the Thursday Market on South Perry Street, which grew explosively as restaurants and bars opened in the neighborhood, and the newer Wednesday night market in Kendall Yards.
No decisions were made Tuesday evening, but the city council agreed Stone should continue to search for a site and consult with the city attorney’s office on how to best write rules and contracts for a potential market which could open in 2018.
“I hope I didn’t plant the seed that the city should run this,” Stone said. “I totally agree that this is one of those situations where once we have an agreement, we can step away and they can do their thing.”
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