Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Farmers Market Zoning Change - is it really needed?

In case you haven't read it, here is the latest proposal for the amendment allowing a farmers market to be added to a place of worship.

It is tightly written as to what can be sold, will directly benefit the Church's weekly food pantry, and it requires an annual permit which may be revoked or never renewed if problems arise.

I have listened to both sides of the argument, read every e-mail, read every letter to the editor, attended Sunday's DHA meeting, talked to the Farmers, talked to the Church & Food Pantry personnel and I walked door to door to talk to the neighbors of St. Patrick's Church.

I have explored all of the issues, weighed the possible consequences against the known benefits, listened intently at the public hearing and therefore I now intend to vote for the Farmers Market on May 11th if no other creative solution is found prior to the meeting. As far as other solutions, the City is exploring the use of the U.S. Post Office property in Dunwoody Village since that post office will be relocating to the Shallowford Road & Peachford mail sort facility, as well as looking at offering a seasonal permit which may also be allowed. Here is my proposed creative solution, do nothing and allow the market to open.

In conducting my research on this amendment, there is no definition of "food service facilities" as it is listed as allowable use in the definition of a Place of Worship in Chapter 27 of the Dunwoody Code. It is my belief that "food service facilities" are not defined anywhere in the Dunwoody Code nor is it defined in the DeKalb County Code that the Dunwoody Code was derived.

Because of this omission, it is hard to say what is NOT a "food service facility" therefore one could argue that a Place of Worship could bring in vendors to provide fresh food to the community, maybe set up a picnic table so they could enjoy the food on the spot, all without any change in the current code.

I'm not a lawyer but I believe the City would be hard pressed to take enforcement against the Church if they opened a farmers market today and claimed it was an allowed use as per the definition of a place of worship. It's just my uneducated opinion, but I am sure I will be getting the cities formal interpretation on Monday.

As I said earlier, I'm not a lawyer; I just try to play one on Monday evenings.


DunwoodyTalk said...

The Dunwoody Village post office is closing? Where will Dunwoody residents go for exposure to rude federal government employees? Where will we wait in line and witness laziness and rude comments from civil servants?

Kate Lee said...

I find it amazing that we have to go thru so much rigamole to "legitimize" something that has been part of our community for many years. Having access to locally grown food is a huge plus; all this concern about commercial ventures at a nonprofit site is too much involvement. Many nonprofits have business ventures to help cover costs - such as museum shops - and we don't get hot & bothered about that!
Can we get back to fixing potholes, please!!!

Mark said...

John, you have my sympathy. I think, if you didn't already have an inkling as a federal employee, of Otto von Bismarck's thinking when he said, "Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made." The great confluence of interests makes what had seemed the simplest of good ideas confounding to legally implement and protect. Your thoughts recorded here demonstrate a great pragmatism that I've no doubt serves you well. It is certainly giving us money's and vote's worth.

I will miss having the market within walking distance, but I'd rather have it within scooter distance than not at all. I hope the church location works out and ends up pleasing most parties involved. I say most because I do not believe it possible to please everyone.

Bob Fiscella said...


A well-written opinion. I have nothing against a farmers' market and feel Dunwoody is better for having one. But I'm not sold on the idea of having one on a church property in a residential area.
John - I'd be interested to know if, from your door-to-door travails, you had even one objection from neighbors surrounding St.Patrick's.
Because that one person purchased their home to be in a residential area, and now we have a for-profit market operating within that area.

If the market is placed in a commerical area - fantastic! But in a residential area, I don't buy it. I don't feel it's fair to the existing neighbors, unless every single one of them were to give their blessing.