A group called 'Friends of the Farmer's Market' in Chico made an announcement Saturday morning saying they will seek to qualify an initiative for ballot in next year that would give them a longer lease agreement and the ability to expand.
"We have decided to qualify an initiative, hopefully, for the November 2014 ballot, and let the City of Chico voters decide about the fate of the farmer's market," said spokeperson Cheryl King Saturday morning during a press conference at the farmer's market.
The crowd of onlookers cheered at the statement.
Earlier this year the market, run by the Chico Certified Farmer's Market, were told the franchise agreement that allows them to operate at the city-owned parking lot on the corner of 2nd and Wall Streets would run out at the end of next year. The market has called the lot home for some 21 years.
With the agreement scheduled to end, the market is looking for some stability along with the opportunity to grow.
They say they're turning lemons into lemonade--handing out symbolic fresh lemonade at the market event on Saturday--and turning to voters to help pass an initiative.
They hope to start a signature gathering campaign in the coming months, once all of the terms of the initiative have been ironed out.
Terms that include "how many years for a lease, how much space, what the farmers are going to be paying, those kinds of things," says King.
King says the length of the lease is yet to be decided, but suggests the market may want to grow and take up another lane of parking.
To do so, she says farmers and vendors may offer to pay some 500 percent more in fees to the city than they already do.
Opposition to the Saturday market's location say it already gobbles up valuable parking spots and that the thousands of people attracted to the market each week don't actually shop downtown.
Councilmember Randall Stone says the two sides just can't come to terms.
"I tried to work with them in February to make this site work and step-up some utilities which is great for the city and great for downtown," Stone says, "and that didn't work because a few of those interests were uninterested in addressing those relatively minor concerns."
Naturally, the majority of market goers don't want to see it moved but Alan Chamberlain--who says he loves the farmer's market--can see how the current site doesn't work.
"This is a terrible location for a farmer's market," he says. "Candidly, there are 8,000 farmer's markets taking place today around the country and the vast overwhelming majority of them are taking place in closed streets instead of parking lots. The fact is, there is a body of best practices in this industry and this market is not following it."
Whether that best practice is one that fits Chico is unknown, but market supporters say moving the weekly event is preposterous.
Whatever the case, it looks like this item will be put before voters next November and then the majority of the public will have to decide.