PROPOSED FARMERS MARKET REGULATIONS SET TO GO BEFORE ISLAMORADA COUNCIL

Alcoholic beverage permit for distillery sees opposition

A draft with proposed regulations to farmers markets in the village of Islamorada will go before council members at the April 21 meeting. The village’s planning department says the new rules strike a balance between promoting such events and safeguarding the community. 

Organizers of a farmers market running for the past five years believe the proposal will end the event, hurting local vendors who come every Sunday.

Proposed changes to the village’s regulations for farmer market operations outline types of products sold. Per Village Planning Director Dan Gulizio, farmers markets constitute farm produce and items such as local food, drinks and plants made in Florida and not a processed product distributed widely outside the state. 

An initial proposal originally stated 51% of items at farmers markets must be local produce, but members of the Local Planning Agency at a March 28 meeting reduced the figure to 40%.

Andrea Segovia spends every Sunday running the Florida Keys Farmers Market, located at MM 81 in Islamorada. She said the event affords a living for families who set up tents to showcase and sell their local goods. Segovia said a 40% local produce requirement diminishes the ability to successfully run a market. 

“There’s no sense in being open and wasting our time with the proposed ordinance,” Segovia told Keys Weekly. “The 51% would have been impossible, but 40% still won’t cut it.”

Per a staff analysis, a farmers market does not include private garage sales, flea markets, fairs and similar activities held by places of worship. Gulizio told LPA members at the meeting last month that regulations come from similar ordinances in Florida municipalities.

Farmers markets are allowed in village center, highway and neighborhood commercial districts. Farmers markets can operate one day a week between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., but they can’t be within 1 mile of one another. Gulizio said that provision can be modified by the village manager or council, but the intent was to ensure there isn’t a concentration of farmers markets that cause traffic, safety hazards along the road and impacts to residents’ quiet enjoyment. 

Vendors are capped at 30 for farmers markets, but the village manager or the village council can reduce the vendor number based on individual lot size, parking availability and traffic safety concerns.

Those producing farmers markets are required to submit a site plan application and must obtain a temporary use permit. Gulizio said the permit would be good for the year.  

Jae Jans, operator of the Florida Keys Farmers Market, said he feels the public and farmers market operators should be given enough time to provide counterpoints to what the village is proposing.

Segovia added that she hopes the Florida Keys Farmers Market is grandfathered in, as she said issues such as parking aren’t coming from her event. 

“We have parking attendants and everything is under control,” she said. 

In addition to proposed rules for farmers markets, council members will consider a resolution considering the request of CBT Construction & Development Inc. for an alcoholic beverage use permit for property located at 90184 Overseas Highway. The former BB&T Bank facility, located in a village center, consists of vacant space on the first floor and seven deed-restricted affordable housing units on the second floor. With plans for a brewery, distillery and tasting room, to be called Crooked Palm Distillery, a license is sought for on-premises consumption only.

Eighteen letters were sent to the village expressing opposition to approving the request. A few came from neighboring residents and those residing in Plantation Key Colony who say it would negatively affect quality of life. 

“We feel this property at 90184 Overseas Highway is better suited as business for medical professional offices, additional apartments or retail store,” a letter reads.

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Jim McCarthy is a northerner who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since his graduation from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3 years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. Behind every community is resiliency and resolve in difficult times. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim serves as President of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. “It’s a group that lives by the motto ‘Service Above Self,’” he says. “We’ve done service projects at the Tavernier nursing home, sitting down and socializing with residents. “We’ve also supplied cameras to young students exploring the Keys ecosystem.” Jim loves sports, family and time exploring underneath the water depths.