The Town of Mooresville has a new ordinance that allows open-air agricultural markets, including Josh’s Farmers Market.
The measure passed unanimously — and with the recommendation of town staff and the Town of Mooresville planning board — in tonight’s regular monthly town board meeting.
Planning Director Erika Martin said the text amendment — which she called “town-initiated” and said is in response to “community desires to create this compatible commercial use” — has been reviewed and revised over time based on “discussions with (town board members) and even feedback from the public and Josh’s Farmers Market and others.”
The ordinance narrowly defines temporary and permanent markets and differentiates between the two.
- Temporary open-air markets cannot exceed 10,000 square feet and can operate no more than 179 days at a time. They also cannot be any closer than one-quarter of a mile to another temporary open-air market.
- Permanent open-air markets cannot be larger than 35,000 square feet and are required to have a permanent structure that is a minimum of 5,000 square feet. Permanent open-air markets must be situated one-half of a mile from any other permanent open-air market.
Seventy-five percent of the products carried in a permanent open-air market must be agricultural or prepared food products, and 25 percent can be non-food products. The town ordinance includes “a whole list of prohibited items” in the non-food category, Martin said.
In fact, the list continued to be adjusted up to the moment the ordinance was approved tonight, with Commissioner Lisa Qualls asking that piles of manure be restricted and landscaping items like mulch be pre-packaged. She asked that pallets after unloading not be “unsightly.” She also asked to stipulate that the two allowed food trucks at open-air markets be restricted from remaining parked overnight.
Mayor Chris Carney said general town policies should already address food trucks not being able to remain overnight anywhere in town — not just open-air markets — and he made sure that pre-packaged natural fertilizers or mulch include anything placed in containers or bound, such as bales of straw, hay or pine needles.
The town recently named Erika Martin its director of planning and community development after the former embattled planning director, Danny Wilson, resigned.
Both the town and the owners of Josh’s Farmers Market praised Martin at tonight’s meeting. “I think you’ve really got a winner there in planning,” JFM’s Garrett Deweese told the board tonight. “ I don’t think her shoes were all that big to fill from her predecessor, but she definitely will be a star and lead y’all in the right direction.”
JFM Owner Josh Graham also thanked Martin and Commissioners Gary West and Eddie Dingler, who started working on the open-air market ordinance last summer to help the market keep its long-standing business model. “This is something we had hoped we could get put in place as a temporary for now and then permanent going forward,” Graham said. “I think this was done in a very transparent and a mutual way.”
Deweese said the ordinance change will benefit other existing markets in Mooresville — not just JFM. “The ordinance that’s in place now not only restricts us but also restricted other markets inside the municipality — folks that just do a Christmas tree lot, flowers, pumpkins, mums,” he said. “It places restrictions on everybody to operate the way they had for many years up to this point.
“This new ordinance more or less rights a lot of wrongs.”