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Beach Baptist market here to stay

November 30, 2016
Jessica Salmond - News Editor (jsalmond@breezenewspapers.com) , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The orange-shaped juice stand at the Beach Baptist farmers market is hard to miss - its bright, spherical shape catches the eye among other vendors in tents.

Don and Heather Reagan of Mom's Restaurant started setting up shop at the farmers market to help their brick-and-mortar (rather, a beach cottage-turned cafe) business up the street.

As he fresh-squeezed juice for a wandering market customer at the orange stand, Don Reagan said having a spot at the market had been successful for his business, and others around him.

Article Photos

Vendors line the Beach Baptist Farmers Market every Wednesday.

A unanimous vote from the Fort Myers Beach Town Council at its Nov. 21 meeting will allow the market to stay, but its weekly appearance was threatened after the market failed to get a special events permit in August.

Religious entities used to be exempt from needing a special event permit to conduct outdoor events. The market's original permit expired in May of this year and the market continued over the summer.

Rev. Shawn Critser spoke before council and pledged that the permitting issue was a matter of miscommunication - the church continued into the summer because it was told it was exempt, he said.

"It is in no way a defiance," he said.

In August, the town council adopted a new ordinance pertaining to special events, part of which removed the exempt status of religious entities.

"We didn't know," he said, "We were cited. The church doesn't want to appear noncompliant, it was just bad timing."

The citation went to special magistrate - and the market continued running each week.

"Why did they continue running this operation without applying for a permit?" said Mayor Dennis Boback, who finally voted to allow the market.

The church had also been cited for some other violations, such as permanent RVs being parked on the property and insufficient buffering around its perimeter.

"Everything we've been approached with has been there from the 90s," Critser said. "We put in 157 bushes and trees, and cost almost $30,000."

Before the meeting, the market got a passionate defense from its employees and visitors during public comment.

"It's more than just a market, it's a community effort," said Forest "Butch" Critser, the church's building supervisor. "It's an opportunity for our community to get together."

Council Member Tracey Gore said she had not received any complaints about the market, except that some boaters had been tying up at the Mound House to attend the market down the street.

The market's assured permit was good news to its vendors.

"I'm glad to see the town coming on board," Reagan said. "Small business is important. We want to have our opportunity."

 
 

 

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