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City seeks common ground with northeast St. Pete farmers market

ST. PETERSBURG — Last fall, a struggling farmers market set up shop on property owned by Dr. David McKalip, a neurosurgeon and outspoken critic of city government.

City zoning and planning officials weren't thrilled. Fearing parking problems, they requested detailed plans from the Founders Corner Fresh Market, a fledgling endeavor that offers goods like honey, vegetables and crafts on the southwest corner of Fourth Street and 62nd Avenue N.

The plans didn't meet their satisfaction and the market's operator was cited for not following the city's temporary use rules, which unleashed a host of criticism from McKalip on his blog (sunbeamtimes.com) earlier this week.

McKalip charged that the city was "out of control" with its "need to regulate anything that moves."

A major sticking point? Founders Creek has operated twice a week, on Fridays and Saturdays, since last fall. One day, the city said, was plenty.

"We're a mom and pop market," said operator Joe Irizarry. "This is our livelihood."

On a typical day, he'll rent stalls to six to 12 vendors. Although McKalip gives him a break on renting the land, he still hasn't made any money yet, Irizarry said.

He said he and his wife are trying to escape foreclosure on their house. He also does carpentry and odd jobs.

He vowed to open his market today, but hasn't been opening on Saturdays.

On Thursday, the city appeared to soften its stance.

"Maybe we can work something out," said Ben Kirby, spokesman for Mayor Rick Kriseman.

It turns out that another farmers market, one that the city has heavily promoted, also operates on private property and is authorized for two days. The "Deuces Market" at 903 and 909 22nd St. S, may open on Tuesdays and Sundays.

That was news to McKalip, who said city officials had frustrated him by failing to explain how he could bring his market into compliance.

"This strengthens my case," McKalip said. "They invent things on the fly."

Kirby said the city wants to resolve the issue, but that the market needs to provide more information, especially about parking. City planners worry that patrons could disturb residents by parking on the street, he said.

But Richard Kirby, president of the Edgemoor Neighborhood Association, said he's already told the city that residents like the market and haven't had any parking problems.

In the past, city officials "have bent over backwards" to help his neighborhood, Richard Kirby wrote in an email. That's why the city's stance perplexes him.

"It seems to me that when one issue is addressed and solved, another one is created to interrupt the vendors who are trying to make a living," Richard Kirby wrote.

Ben Kirby, the mayor's spokesman, said the similarities between Founders Corner and Deuces were strong. He said that he was confident that a solution could be reached.

"We want to work with anyone who wants to do something like this," Ben Kirby said.

McKalip will meet with Kriseman to discuss the issue on July 16. Meanwhile, the market will remain closed on Saturday.

Charlie Frago can be reached at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago

City seeks common ground with northeast St. Pete farmers market 06/26/14 [Last modified: Thursday, June 26, 2014 11:11pm]
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