March 31st, 2011

On Farmers Markets and Permits (Updated)

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As many of you probably know, some 30 to 40 people showed up yesterday at the site of the Roots in the City Farmers Market to protest a city of Miami code violation citation that the market received the previous week.

The technicalities of the permits and what permits the organizers thought they needed versus what the mayor’s office – who sent a couple of reps to the site – said they needed had my head spinning all day and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

Organizers of the market were under the impression that they needed a special use permit, which costs $153.50 per use and has a limit on the amount of times you can pull it unless you get a waiver from the City Commission.

But the mayor’s public affairs officer, Pat Santangelo, said all the Overtown market needed a certificate of use that costs $250 for the first year and would be waived for non-profits, and a $73 class I permit. A story in the Miami Herald called it a “warrant to operate a business.” That might explain why my search for a $73 class I permit led me nowhere but that’s what the mayor’s reps called it.

The story in the Herald also may have answered the question running through many people’s minds: “why now?” After all, the market had been running undisturbed since December. But politics aside, this incident just highlighted the need for a clear permitting process for farmers markets.

The Liberty City Farmers Market also ran into permitting issues last month and had to relocate. Would a certificate of use and “warrant to operate a business” apply to them?

Claire Tomlin of The Market Company (who runs several markets in Miami) said each of her markets is unique when it comes to permits but her commissioner has been supportive of her efforts. She said the city passed an ordinance three years ago that allows her to operate farmers markets on private land on Saturdays and Sundays. For her Thursday market at Jackson Memorial Hospital she got a special exemption from the city.

The mayor’s people, however, made the process sound easy, calling yesterday’s events a “teachable moment” (for the market organizers) and saying it’s just doing business and to do business you need to play by the rules. Fair enough. Organizers are clear that they have no issue with complying, but they also say their calls and emails to the city often go unanswered.

So, if the city “loves those guys” (as they told me) and wouldn’t want these markets to stop, why not just work with them? Easier said than done, I know, but the county does. Many of the people I’ve spoken to say the county has been helpful and willing to work with market organizers so they can operate. I asked the mayor’s office if the city was doing anything to improve the permitting process. They said they were working to make it easier for everyone. How? I’m not sure.

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Update 4/1/11

Below is a response I received via email from the city’s Zoning Department. I don’t know that it made things less confusing.

“Class I permits no longer exist upon adoption of the new Zoning Ordinance, Miami21, last year. Farmers markets are considered open air retail and may operate upon issuance of a Warrant (administrative process) in T5-L, T5-O, T6-L T6-O, CS, and D3 Transect Zone. They are allowed by exception (public hearing) in CI Transect Zone. They are allowed by right in CI-HD, D1, and D2 Transect Zone. They are also subject to additional regulations (such as distance) found in Article 6 of Miami21.

Open air retails can also operate as special events (limited to 2 times per year, 2 weeks each on private property and 10 times per year, 2 weeks each on public property). The time limitations can be waived by affirmative vote of the City Commission.

The Zoning Ordinance, Miami21, specifically states that open air retail may only operate during the weekends and legal holidays for a maximum of 3 consecutive days. There is no provision in Miami21 to waive these requirements.”

On whether the city was working on any changes to code, the answer was:

“Farmers markets are permitted in the City of Miami. No further regulations are being considered at this time.”

Also, here’s a great post by Redland Rambles on Wednesday’s events. And on a somewhat related note, listen to Trina Sargalski’s radio story on urban farms.

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4 Responses to “On Farmers Markets and Permits (Updated)”

  1. […] about the protest at CBS 4, Local 10 and the Miami Herald here and here. Mango and Lime has a thoughtful post. Read Dr. Marvin Dunn’s letter to the editor in the Miami Herald. RITC Farmers Market got […]

  2. Pau is saving the farms!

  3. Good reporting.

  4. We’re still at the beginnings of this local Miami food movement: last year there were 2 markets selling mostly/exclusively local and organic; now there are 7. Four years ago, there was one way to get raw milk/grass fed meat, now there are at least 10. Local laws do not yet reflect this new reality, but they will. Actual customers for the vendors will do more than anything to bring about the change. Don’t get pissed off at the city–well meaning citizens pushed for the laws that make everything local vendors want to do illegal–just talk to local officials and stress the economic boom for the cities these markets represent. It will change; economics are more powerful than government. Mothers, esp. young ones and stay at home ones, are the major driving force and they are relentless.

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