Walnut Cove board questions farmer’s market

By Nicholas Elmes - nelmes@civitasmedia.com

A proposal to use a small strip of property owned by the town of Walnut Cove to construct a farmer’s market was met by a number of questions and concerns from the town Board of Commissioners last week.

Charles and Lauren Byron told the board that they wanted to enter into an agreement with the town which would permit them to seek grants on the town’s behalf to construct a permanent farmers market structure on a piece of land located near the old Dehart dentists building. In return they asked the town to grant them exclusive management rights of the market for five years with a percentage of the profits being paid to the town on a monthly basis.

The Byrons said they would be responsible for obtaining business licenses, finding grant funding, overseeing construction, publicizing the market and managing all potential vendors.

“We hope the market could also serve the area as a community gathering place,” said Lauren Byron. “We feel this would enhance the entire downtown area and perhaps attract permanent business.”

But Commissioner Sharon Conaway said she was worried the proposal was a weird mix of a lease and a contract and questioned if public funds would end up being used to support a private business.

“If it were a true lease then the town would not provide the insurance on the facility,” she added.

Town attorney Ann Rowe said the proposal would need more work before the town could consider it, but said she thought the two parties could eventually establish an appropriate agreement for the project if the town wished to do so.

Lauren Byron said she and her husband were willing to work on more fitting terms, noting that they were just trying to help the town.

“I was trying to get the ball rolling,” she said. “I feel like that parking lot will still be a parking lot years from now if someone does not stand up and do something. I am trying to throw something out there. I want this to be a permanent feature that people know is there and stop at all summer long.”

Mayor Lynn Lewis said he liked the idea and encouraged the town to try iron out details to make it work.

Conaway worried that doing so could cost the town a decent sum in attorney’s fees, and Rowe agreed that it would take a number of billable hours to resolve the concerns.

“This is not something that will be resolved in a 30 minute or hour discussion,” Rowe said.

Conaway said if the Byrons and the town manager could work out more details and then have a cleaner proposal reviewed by Rowe then she would be willing to consider it.

“I think it is a good idea, but there has to be a clear separation of roles and responsibilities,” she said. “If we can get there then great.”

Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.

By Nicholas Elmes


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