Farmers’ Market Sues City over ‘Pave or Vacate’ Mandate

By Heather Callaghan

A farmers’ market in Mount Jackson, Virginia is causing an uproar by saying, “Yes, we’re suing the town.”

This little market bought an unoccupied former business building in Mount Jackson in an effort to improve the town and provide a fun place for all kinds of vendors. The market performs every year at a financial and emotional loss because they believe it’s so important and rewarding to provide a market and a place for local fare. Otherwise, people have to go to the next town over for organic and the town remains more abandoned. They wanted downtown Mount Jackson to be like it was historically – where it’s at!

For years, a gravel lot was effectively used for parking and by the owners for activities in and around the building. Plans were made by the market to improve the lot and building but extensions were needed to finish in order to continue the summer market – and because of economic hardship on the facilitators, namely, Gerald Forsburg. See a short news vid here.

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Town council required them to have a paved asphalt or concrete lot at great expense – $15,000 – $20,000 – to the market, but the owners asked for an extension and to be able to continue the pending summer market. Council shot that down because of “ordinance” which apparently stems from “aesthetics.” So, it was pave or get out.

Oh, where have we heard that gem before? Look up our articles on front yard garden shut-downs.

The market had to cancel summer events and the produce orders because of the requirements, cancel vendor agreements, and are at a loss for a whole year. So how can they ever get ahead at this point to even think about paving? Who runs this town – Mr. Potter of Bedford Falls? I mean just kick them down so they can’t ever operate again! Suffocating people with permits, requirements, codes and ordinances is one way to kill fresh food access – and kill your town. The leaders of Mt Jackson are paid to run the town into a barren ground.

And how can this claim be made with any conscience? It gets even crazier…

Mt Jackson city council was caught cherry-picking which businesses to hold to this ordinance for paving and which businesses they’d look away from with unpaved lots. Mt Jackson Farmers’ Market reports:

Furthermore, there are businesses in the community that have NOT been required to pave their lots. The Council would likely state that those businesses have “on street” parking. Well, SO DO WE!

The market saw a bigger drop in funds when the council banned them from using sandwich board signs in 2011 to advertise the times and place even though other businesses were allowed.

There’s more – this is about the councilman who voted them down:

Yet, earlier this year, Mr. Holtzman demanded a bench decision from the very same Town Council to permit him to operate a newly purchased single family home as two units stating that “after purchasing the property, he found it not feasible to rent out to a single family. The Council was smart enough to send the request to the Planning Commission, who then was able to find a way “legally” to permit Mr. Holtzman’s request. The new code implemented an “Overlay District” whereby the Town Council can permit, by special use, the conversion of a single family dwelling into a multi-unit occupancy. Of course, such a request is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Thus, exempting businesses is not permissible, nor is permitting extensions of time to meet requirements, but re-writing codes to benefit select businesses is?

So like Orwell’s Animal Farm, some are more equal than others… Clearly, there’s a bias here.

Why don’t they just pave?

There are those in the community who say “Just pave the parking lot – we had to.” To be sure, many have been required to pave their lots. However, many of those businesses were either in operation at the time the code was enforced, or given ample time to get their doors open and make a profit before being required to do so.

Check out the declaratory judgment and permanent injunction filed against the town and acting manager Charles Moore. It’s not a suit for monetary means, it’s to stop the town from prohibiting the market when there’s a perfectly good hard surface that’s been in use for years. Also read their Letter to the Editor. But the suit also calls for legal fees and this year’s losses if the town continues to keep them out over freaking asphalt.

Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at and Like at Facebook.

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