Resident raises concern as farmers' market pavilion at Potsdam park hits snag
BY ADAM ATKINSON
North Country This Week
POTSDAM — Construction of a farmers' market pavilion on the edge of Ives Park has hit a snag, and village officials are looking at options for siting the structure.
However, one Hamilton Street resident questions the need for the pavilion at all.A recent survey of the project site, which is on a village-owned lot between Hamilton Street and an all-night parking lot, identified an underground fiberoptic line directly under where the building would be sited.
The project received a $32,010 T-Mobile Hometown Grant to build the structure this past spring. Potsdam was one of only 50 communities who were selected out of hundreds of other municipal applicants.
The pavilion will provide a shelter for the market and other community events, such as the Summer Festival, Snowman Festival and Ives Park Concert Series. The village plans to work with a local Amish carpenter to build the pavilion. Site work was originally expected to begin this past summer.
“We did run into an issue when they were going to survey over there and discovered there is a fiberoptic line that runs directly through the proposed… through the center of the proposed site which was the preference,” Trustee Alexandra Jacobs Wilke said.
“The alternate location which was identified, we’ve heard concerns about it. And I understand, it certainly was not my favorite spot from the beginning,” Wilke said.
She said the village is forming a group with Village Administrator Greg Thompson and Village Planner Fred Hanss and discuss what options the village might have in terms of siting the structure.
She said Thompson was speaking with Clarkson and the Clarkson Inn, the adjacent property owners, to learn if the fiberoptic line could be rerouted through that property instead. However, relocating the line would be expensive, Wilke said, and the grant the village has available for the project would not cover the unexpected work.
Another option would be to relocate the pavilion in a different location adjacent to Ives Park, she said. Wilke said she still believed that the best location is where the farmer’s market currently takes place, between the park and the all-night parking lot. She said the location offered the best access for market-goers, and the best accessibility for wheelchair access and to serve as a “cut-through” for that access to Ives Park proper.
“We are just having to go explore all of our options as thoroughly as we can given our last minute surprise,” she said. “So that work is happening.”
“I know there are concerns about how much is it used and how much would it be used, but can the village create a process by which and how it is maintained and regulated,” said Trustee Abby Lee. Lee said the process is now at the point where the village needs to meet with all of the stakeholders to find the best solution for the farmer’s market, and for maintaining green space for the neighbors that live there.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, 27 Hamilton Street resident Bruce Brownlee said he was “delighted” that the village was listening to comments from the public and that they were not “totally wedded to the current location of that.”
Brownlee’s property sits adjacent to the village-owned lots where the pavilion is to be constructed.
He said he thought that the farmer’s market has been “remarkably successful.”
“And one of the best things about it, is that at 2 o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday, they go away,” Brownlee said.
“The place returns to green space, its grass, there’s no permanent structure there to either be a source of a place for college students to hang out on the way back from the bars to college, to flip their skateboard over and provide annoyance for people who live next door,” said Brownlee.
“The farmer’s market is a wonderful resource. It has worked very well with tents and pavilions that they bring and set up. And at the end of the farmer’s market, it's a quiet, lovely serene place,” Brownlee said. “And it makes it that the farmer’s market is not an ordeal for those of us who live close to it.”
Brownlee said the market only runs for 135 hours of the year, or 1.54 percent of the year. He said a pavilion would be there year round. “And it's not so much the organized activities of the pavilion, it's the unorganized activities of the pavilion that I’m most worried about,” he said.
Brownlee said the current site flagged out for the pavilion is 68 feet from his dining room windows. He said the gazebo is further, but noise from concerts, while livable, still affects how he lives in the house. “At 68 feet it would be deafening,” Brownlee said. “It would alter the entire enjoyment of my house to have a pavilion with a concert there or weddings or singing and music or whatnot. It’s just too close.”
Brownlee said the farmer’s market was unable to even keep a port-a-potty there because students kept tipping it over. He said there is routine trash can tip overs on Bay and Hamilton street, as well as bottles broken on the pavement. Brownlee anticipates that there will be beer bottles smashed on the floor of a pavilion. He also voiced concerns about parking on Hamilton in front of his house.
Brownlee said he would like the village to rethink if it needs a pavilion. “Do we need a pavilion at all, and if we do it would be nice if it were at a larger distance from ... homes when it is being discussed as a concert hall or a wedding venue or other things that are loud,” he said.
Village Mayor Ron Tischler said the village is not at a point now to make a decision on the issue, but that the village would keep Brownlee and other residents informed moving forward.
During discussion, Wilke said the goal of the project is to “get something good for the good for the community.”
“We really wanted to create a resource for the community. We saw a need for the farmer’s market to have some shelter, to have a pavilion and have it be in a location that is accessible for the whole community and support our local economy. And also support events for other non profit organizations. So that’s the overall vision.”
Wilke said an earlier version of the plan called for a much larger structure but the size of the pavilion was scaled back to fit the grant funding for the project.
Stakeholders have been working on refining the plan this summer.
“There’s been a whole group working to try to develop the project within the constraints that we have. The literal space constraints and the money,” she said.
Wilke said a few residents have also stepped up to donate to the project to pay for a larger pavilion.