SARANAC LAKE - A pair of seemingly trivial park-use requests - for the Saturday farmers market in Riverside Park and Daffest in April - sparked a winding and complicated debate at Monday's village board meeting, the first held in the village's new offices in the Harrietstown Town Hall.
The discussion, which also pushed the limits of Robert's Rules of Order, ended with both of the requests being approved.
The AuSable Valley Grange had asked for approval to host its Saturday farmers market in the park from June through October of this year.
But when the request came up on the agenda Monday night, Trustee Allie Pelletieri suggested it be tabled. He said it wouldn't make sense to approve it now because the village board is in the process of reviewing its park-use policies and that the subject is currently being discussed in meetings on the village comprehensive plan.
Pelletieri raised other, more specific concerns about the request. He said the park is a "prime piece of real estate, and this is the prime season for making money," and said the village should be wary about letting it be used every Saturday by the farmers' market.
Pelletieri also said village residents and businesses that are members of the AuSable Grange should be given first opportunity to be vendors at the market. He also said he wasn't sure if organizers should have "exclusive rights" to use "Saranac Lake" in the market's name.
Sam Hendron of the AuSable Valley Grange asked for an opportunity to respond, but Mayor Clyde Rabideau said he couldn't allow that during the board discussion, in keeping with Robert's Rules. He said Hendron could speak later in the meeting.
The motion to table the request was approved 3-1, with Pelletieri and trustees Tom Catillaz and John McEneany in favor. Trustee Jeff Branch was opposed.
A few minutes later, Rabideau asked for a motion to approve a park-use request for the second annual Daffest, which will be held April 28.
But Branch asked for the motion to be tabled, saying it wouldn't make sense to approve one park-use request and not another, since the village is still working on its park-use policies. But the tabling motion was defeated, with only Branch and McEneany in favor. Rabideau cast the tie-breaking vote against tabling the Daffest request.
Pelletieri said he supported granting the Daffest request because the date of the event was only about three weeks before the deadline he had set for revising the village's park-use policies, April 9. It wouldn't be fair to Daffest organizers to wait until then to make a decision, he said.
As for the farmers market, "I think they do a good job," Pelletieri said. "I'm in favor of it coming back, but I'd like to see us set the ground rules down."
He also said he thought the farmers market request was incomplete because it didn't include an actual park-use form.
But Branch noted that the village approved the same contract with the farmers market last year.
"There were no concerns last year," he said. "This farmers market has been a proven benefit to this village. Why we want to stymie that is beyond me."
The Daffest park-use request was then approved 4-0.
Later in the meeting, McEneany asked Hendron when the grange's vendors would need to know if the farmers market is going to happen.
"The farmers that participate are already in their greenhouses, buying seeds, projecting what they need to plant for these markets," Hendron said. "If the market doesn't go forward and they already planted for it, it's in a lot of cases tens of thousands of dollars' worth of extra production that they need to find a market for."
McEneany then asked the board to suspend Robert's Rules so he could bring another motion on the table to approve the farmers market. The vote to suspend the rules was approved 3-2, with Rabideau again casting the tie-breaking vote. Branch and McEneany were in favor; and Catillaz and Pelletieri were opposed.
To raise another motion on the same issue, however, Rabideau told McEneany that he needed to make it different from the one that was tabled earlier in the meeting. McEneany then moved to approve the grange's request to host the Saturday farmer's market pending submission and approval of a park-use permit.
That motion was approved 4-0. Even Pelletieri voted in favor of it.
"I'm all for the market; I just think we've got to protect our community and the village first," Pelletieri said after the vote.
As the discussion came to a close, Rabideau noted that a Saranac Lake High School senior, Gabi Bevilacqua, was in the audience to learn how village government works. The crowd erupted in laughter.
"You picked a good day," Branch said.
"You can report back to your teacher on how Robert's Rules of Order work, and how this board works or doesn't work, and hopefully it will turn out somewhat positive," Rabideau said.