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Paving Paradise

Edwards Greenhouse shutters its farmers market

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Though you can still buy heirloom tomato starts from Edwards Greenhouse, forget about hauling home an armload of already-ripe fruits and veggies on Tuesday evenings. After hosting a Tuesday night farmers market for the past three summers with the Capital City Public Market, Edwards must take this season off.

When the greenhouse applied for a conditional use permit from the city, it received unfortunate news. In order to continue hosting the market, owners need to revamp their parking lot.

"Even though we're already a business, they wanted to make sure that we had enough parking to handle the farmers market and our current clientele on Tuesday night," explained Edwards' HR manager Trina Leishman.

Edwards has been in the same Hill Road location for the past 80 years, but its unfinished parking lot only became an issue recently because of noise complaints from neighbors. By hosting live musicians at its Tuesday night markets and holding a number of weddings, Edwards ruffled a few feathers in nearby nests. This year, the greenhouse was required to submit a conditional use permit to the city, a step it didn't have to take in the past because its permit had been grandfathered in.

"In order to get their conditional use permit in, they needed to get their parking lot in, and it just didn't work out this year with the weather and everything to get it in before the farmers market started," said Karen Ellis, executive director of the Capital City Public Market. "We can't expect them to do it now when they're going into their busy season."

Though the city doesn't require a fully paved lot, it does have a few specific requirements.

"The one piece that was part of the conditional use permit was that they needed to have a rudimentary parking lot, which is not paved, but it would have to have some sort of crushed or recycled asphalt that is laid down ... with stripes and wheel stops," said Adam Park, spokesman for Mayor Dave Bieter.

Edwards hopes to have the lot completed by spring 2011 in order to reinstitute the farmers market. For now, Ellis hopes a number of the market's dozen or so vendors will transfer to the Thursday night market, a mid-week farmers market downtown.

"It's a little bit unfortunate, but we do have the Thursday night market that we can transfer people over to," said Ellis. "It's disappointing because the neighborhood was just getting used to that, but we'll get the word out and let people know that we're coming back next year with it. It will give us time to revamp it."

In the meantime, Edwards is considering other ways to draw crowds out mid-week.

"What we're trying to do at Edwards is think of other unique ways to help people come down on Tuesday nights," said Leishman. "I don't think it'll hurt the business; it's been a marketing tool, but more than anything it's been more of a community outreach. It's something that we've enjoyed providing to the community. I live a block away, and I'm a little bummed myself."