Hoping to put an end, for now, to the discussion over where to hold Chico's Downtown Saturday Farmers' Market, the 'Friends of the Farmers' Market' have filed paperwork with the city. Their goal is to gather enough signatures to have the issue put on the November ballot. They need to gather 10% registered voters' signatures, or 4,750, to make it on the ticket. If voters say 'yes,' then the market will enter into an agreement with the city for 6 years, with the potential for additional space.
Karl Ory, who represents the group, filed the paperwork at Chico City Hall Thursday morning. He says, "Many of the people we bring in downtown for the market are buying shoes, they're having a meal. It's a win-win situation."
But many small business owners in the area disagree. They say, at the heart of the issue, is parking. Old Gold Estates Jewelry owner Steve Catterall says, "It does hurt my business. Not that they don't bring people downtown, it's about parking. I have no problem with the Farmers' Market, and I don't think any of the merchants have a problem with the Farmers' Market, other than their location." He says he'd like to see the market move to the parking lot behind City Hall.
Downtown Salon and Gallery owner Brenda Bergland says, "I really have lost half of my clientele on Saturday." Other area business owners who declined to go on camera say they've been harrassed for speaking up. They say their customers have stopped coming in on Saturday mornings because they can't find parking. And they say some have chosen to stay closed Saturday mornings, and only open once the market ends.
Meanwhile, Ory says he believes the move to keep the market where it is will have the support of the city. Says Ory, "I'm optimistic the voters will break the deadlock and give the market a new lease."