Midtown Raleigh News

Raleigh seeks way to help produce markets

Erin Boltz wants to sell vegetables this summer at a produce stand on Creedmor Road.

Guenevere Abernathy wants to take LoMo Market, the Triangle’s first mobile farmer’s market, on regular visits to Raleigh neighborhoods and office parks.

Both entrepreneurs face a problem as troublesome as any drought or freeze warning: Their businesses run afoul of city codes that limit where traveling vendors can set up and how long they can operate in one location.

But Boltz and Abernathy found reason for hope. It may take some bureaucratic gymnastics, but the City Council’s law and public safety committee told staffers to find a way to accommodate the vendors, even if it means showing leniency while new guidelines are created.

“There’s a desire to have this happen,” Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin told the merchants. “You’re bringing healthy food into neighborhoods. The question becomes, who’s going to figure out how we do this?”

The debate offers an example of how the local food movement is prompting City Hall to adapt to new kinds of startup businesses. A similar evolution took place last year with new rules allowing food trucks.

In the first six months, 18 food trucks got permits to set up in a total of 11 locations around town, and city officials say they have received no complaints from businesses or residents.

Boltz and her Lyon Farm produce stand are governed by a city rule meant for temporary, seasonal fireworks stands and Christmas tree lots.

But Boltz wants to sell produce throughout the summer. She said it took her six weeks to secure her current spot at Abbotswood, a senior living community on Creedmor Road.

A solution emerged in the form of a legal loophole. The committee advised Boltz to ask Abbotswood to apply for a variance with the Board of Adjustment.

In the meantime, city officials will draft language to account for temporary farm stands – a process that will allow Boltz to operate through the summer while the issue is considered under review.

Committee members found an easier solution for LoMo Market, which sells produce, baked goods and meats out of a trailer.

The city defines LoMo as a food truck, a category that prevents the trailer from parking in residential and office areas.

In Cary and Durham, LoMo is classified as a peddler and is allowed to be on public streets or private property.

A simple change to the peddler’s license – incorporating the types of goods sold by LoMo – would allow for more leniency in Raleigh. The City Council will vote on both issues at its meeting Tuesday.

All the talk about produce prompted another round of wisecracking from Councilman John Odom, who likes to joke about his country upbringing.

“I keep telling you I left the farm,” he said. “Ya’ll keep wanting to go back.”

Fraser Sherman of the Raleigh Public Record, contributed to this report. www.raleighpublicrecord.org