A group of farmers will plead before the city council on Tuesday
The Downtown Wichita Falls Farmers Market Association will present a show of force to the Wichita Falls City Council on Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to stay in its downtown area. If that doesn’t work out, the group’s leader says the sellers are ready to pack up and move.
Association president Scott Poenitzsch said his group of 126 vendors would like to stay at the Seventh Street and Ohio Avenue location, but the price has to be right.
The association has been embroiled in a three-way dispute over rental fees. The city owns the property, but subleases it to Downtown Wichita Falls Development (DWFD), a non-profit organization which in turn subleases the facility to the association. When the contract was renewed in April, a dispute arose over rental fees.
“It’s generated a lot of passion from every stakeholder I can think of,” Poenitzsch said.
He said the rent hike would have been an operating rental fee of $3,450 or a rental fee of $1,350 and 50% of the association’s profits. This was unacceptable to the association and the members launched a campaign of petitions to bring to the city.
The DWFD responded by serving an eviction notice on the association effective August 19 and hiring someone to manage the facility.
Poenitzsch said the number of signatures on the petition topped 2,500 on Monday and several people would speak at the board meeting on Tuesday.
“A number of people who want to talk are customers or vendors and I heard a couple of downtown business people are going to show up and talk,” Poenitzsch said. “Our intention is for the city to terminate the contract it has with Downtown Development and open a dialogue so that all three parties can sit down and find something amicable. Ultimately, we want to stay there. , downtown businesses want us to stay and customers want us to stay, but it has to be economically sound.
He said the association wants a simple rental expense at a reasonable cost. He wouldn’t say what that “reasonable cost” might be.
Poenitzsch said his association is considering 18 alternate sites for the market, and members will meet Tuesday night to consider options if negotiations with the city and the DWFD fail.
“We’re just asking the Wichita Falls City Council to make the right business decision,” he said.