(Drew Saunders & Crystal Proxmire, July 29, 2017)
Royal Oak, MI -As the city prepares to create a new City Hall and Police station, Royal Oak officials are addressing rumors that the development will force the closure of the Farmers Market.
A group of residents has started the website www.savethefarmersmarket.com in hopes of halting the development. The website gives no names, only a generic email address. Request for comment through the email address has not been returned. There have also been people handing out fliers at the market, which is open on the weekends.
Mayor Michael Fournier issued a statement about the Save the Farmers Market effort.
“In recent days there has been a public outpouring of support for our farmers market in response to a petition calling to “Save the Royal Oak Farmers Market,” he said.
“At no point have city officials ever considered closing or jeopardizing the market. The city has invested thousands of dollars improving the market over the past few years and values its role in our community.
“We all can agree: The Royal Oak Farmers Market is a jewel in our city.
“The proposed Royal Oak Civic Center development will enhance the market by adding parking, additional outdoor vendor space and creating more opportunities for both residents and visitors to enjoy what we think is the best suburban farmers market in the region.
“The implied suggestion that the city commission is forsaking the farmers market is both unfounded and untrue. We encourage you to visit romi.gov/civiccenter.”
The Civic Center development calls for an office building, a police station, a city hall, a public park and a parking deck.
Greg Stanalajzo is one of the residents that handed out fliers at the market. His issue was trading surface parking for a deck. “If you ever go to Eastern Market they have a parking deck, but the only day its used is during flower day and for Lion’s tailgating,” he said. “People aren’t going to use it.”
Although the discussions have been going on for over two years, with multiple news articles covering the progress along with town halls, council meetings, and plans available online, Stanalajzo was critical of the city’s outreach efforts. “A lot of the meetings with the developer have been closed door. There’s been townhall meetings but there have been no real meetings to get input from the citizens,” he said. When asked to clarify if there have been public meetings or not, Stanalajzo said “no public hearing.”
The flier from Stanalajzo gives statistics about parking that do not include the fact that office users will mainly be there during the week, while the market is on the weekend. It also leads readers to question the city’s motives.
“The City’s plan to build a new City hall and police station eliminates most surface parking, requiring many par patrons to use a parking deck two blocks away. Seniors and disabled persons will be at a disadvantage. Patrons often make repeat trips to their cars with bags, these customers will never return to the market resulting in its closure. Is this intentional?” the flier states.
City Manager Don Johnson told the Daily Tribune that even with police and city hall buildings, Farmers Market will have 59% more parking than it did when the City took it over in the late 1990s. He said the development would take 100 spaces away, but the deck will add 450. The spaces lost are only 19% of the 428 spaces on the surface lots around the market.
Stanalajzo said he was helping the committee to Save Farmers Market, but would not share names of committee members. He said information was available on the group’s website, but it is not.
“The Farmers Market proper has nothing to do with our movement,” he said.