Beaufort News

New downtown location eyed for Beaufort farmers market

The weekly Beaufort farmers market will open May 16, but it might not be in its familiar home on Freedom Mall by the marina parking lot.

Instead, vendors will likely market their wares on West Street, a compromise reached by City Council during Tuesday's meeting after councilman George O'Kelley opposed a plan to use Scott Street.

City manager Scott Dadson and Main Street Beaufort, USA Executive Director LaNelle Fabian proposed Scott Street be closed between Port Republic and Craven streets from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays for the market.

Vendors would have an hour to set up before the market opened at 3 p.m., Fabian said. Officials want to expand the market from a small, "afterthought" people drive by to a downtown, midweek attraction with more than two dozen farmers stalls, restaurant booths and craft vendors,

"The bottom line is I think you need to give a reason for the rest of us ... to come downtown," Dadson said.

O'Kelley, who had been told the market would start after regular working hours, opposed closing Scott street, which he called "a real artery, not just a little splinter street."

While supporting the market idea, he wanted it located in a spot that did not involve street closures that inconvenience people downtown. O'Kelley said he spoke with several merchants this week who opposed closing Scott Street during daytime hours.

"I just have a real problem when you close any of these streets that are so critical to people getting around," he said.

Council members considered not starting the market until 5 p.m., but Fabian said that would cut into vendors' profits and incentives for participating.

Council approved closing West Street instead by a 3-to-1 vote, with O'Kelley opposed and councilman Mike McFee absent.

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