The birth of Kent's second farmers market officially happened Tuesday night, but it's been a long time coming.
The Kent Planning Commission voted Tuesday to allow the to start a weekly farmers market populated with gardeners and produce from .
Pastor Denny Fox told the commission that the church simply plans to provide the market space to the gardeners who will cultivate 60 different plots on church land this growing season as a place to offer excess produce.
"In the last few years as we ‘ve been offering gardening areas in the back … this has actually grown immensely," Fox said. "Basically it would be just allowing them to set up alongside the driveway. And the church would be open for restroom use."
The congregation, which has its roots in argriculture, has made its land and water available to the community for gardening for about seven years. The small, Anabaptist congregation was founded in 1904 on Depeyster Street near the current location of the before building the Water Street Church in 1955. The Kent Men's Club had used an area of land there for 30 years before it became the community garden.
Fox said many of the gardeners often had excess produce they couldn't eat or give away — several plots are harvested for by volunteers — and had asked about setting up road-side stands at the church to sell the mix of vegetables, fruits and flowers.
"Several of the farmers have indicated they have tried to get into the to sell their extra produce" but were prohibited either by vendor fees or the long waiting list for the popular Saturday morning market, Fox said.
"It’s more just an opportunity for them to set up a tent and table and sell their produce,” he said. “We have no intentions of letting this thing get too big. We’re a church. We don’t want to be in the Hartville Flea Market business.”
The planning commission granted the new market a three-year conditional use permit subject to several conditions, including: that the market be held weekly on Monday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.; a fire lane be maintained in front of the market tables; and fire extinguishers be available if electric devices are used. There is no limit to the number of weeks per year the market can operate.
The commission unanimously approved the church's request, but newly appointed planning commissioner Gregory Balbierz asked that his approval be reflected as "with reservations" in the meeting minutes.
Balbierz questioned Fox about a range of issues regarding potholes in the church drive way to whether or not they had crafted a business plan for the new market. Balbierz pointed to the Haymaker market and markets in Brimfield and the soon to open Ravenna market and questioned whether a second market in Kent would succeed.
"It’s the best of times, yet it’s the worst of times for open air and farmers markets," he said. "Will they be active enough to make it a saleable product?"
In response, Fox reiterated that the church plans to be as hands off as possible while limiting the market's size to the space they are legally permitted to occupy at the church.
"We just want to provide a space and make it available for people who want to come in," Fox said. "There will not be a contract or any type of commitment. It will just be whoever comes on Mondays."
The other four members of the commission all expressed positive feedback for the endeavor.
"I think it’s good to provide a source for locally grown food, so I think it’s a good project,” commission member John Gargan said.