Despite Rehoboth Beach Farmers Market having exceeded the code-allowed number of vendors for years without permission, city commissioners, at the market’s request, have increased the number of allowable vendors from 25 to 38. However, the cost of the annual permit has also increased $400, from $100 to $500.
The Rehoboth Beach Farmers Market operates from May through October in the city’s Grove Park. It started 16 years ago with 14 vendors. At the time, commissioners codified the maximum number of vendors at 25.
Sandy Curson, board of directors president for the market, made the expansion request during the March 8 commissioner workshop. Depending on the season, like when peaches are ready, the number of vendors can be near 40, she said, adding that 28 vendors had already paid to be in the market for the 2021 season.
Lenore Brady is the owner of Georgetown’s Stag Run Farm. She urged the commissioners to approve the expanded number of vendors because a lot of the merchants depend on the area’s farmers markets for their livelihood, and customers want it.
“People come because they can find what they want. It’s very important that there’s a good mix,” said Brady.
During the workshop, City Manager Sharon Lynn suggested commissioners increase the annual permit amount by $400 to account for the increased need of city staff to help with traffic and clean up. It’s been static at $100 for a number of years, she said.
Commissioners recognized the ask-for-forgiveness approach to the market’s request, but ultimately they all thought the market was an important part of the community and that the request should be accommodated. By a unanimous 6-0 vote, commissioners approved the changes during their March 19 voting meeting.
Also in favor of the market, commissioners changed the definition of season to add one additional market date between Nov. 15 and Jan. 15 to accommodate the holiday market that is already taking place. The normal period of market operations – May 1 to Oct. 31 – remains the same.
Commissioner Pat Coluzzi founded the market, and she recused herself from the vote because of her ongoing connection. In an email following the meeting, she said most of the time the market has had 25 vendors, but for roughly the past six years, the market has occasionally exceeded that number.
Coluzzi said the market came before the commissioners this year because there are a lot of vendors applying for space already due to COVID. The market would like to accommodate them, she said.
Coluzzi said the market is prepared to deny a vendor space to stay at the new level.
“I deny vendors all of the time, as we have a waiting list,” said Coluzzi. “I try to provide guest vendor spots to give small businesses a chance to acquaint the market-goers with their products.”
Over the course of the two meetings, multiple residents complained in person or in writing about traffic issues around Grove Park and the traffic circle when the market is open.
Coluzzi said police department officers help direct traffic and that seems to work well.
“[There are] always a few people who complain, but there are others who live on Grove Street that have always welcomed the market,” said Coluzzi.