Farmers market wrong for Lenox center
To the editor:
I read with interest The Eagle story of May 6 regarding the proposed farmers market in the center of Lenox.
As a member of a family which owns a small retail business in the middle of Stockbridge, I am keenly aware of the pressures faced by downtowns here in the Berkshires. Our town centers are small, and there are many competing interests vying for the use of space there.
However, I would like to be clear that the issues and concerns regarding the placement of the farmers market in Lilac Park, raised by Joe Nejaime and Earl Albert, ring very true and have a great deal of validity. These are merchants like ourselves who have worked tirelessly to build and maintain their businesses in a market environment that is seasonal, not highly populated, and expensive.
I know how hard both these families have toiled over many years and how much they contribute to the fabric of Lenox. These are truly "Shop Local" destinations, with local employees and deep local roots.
When outside businesses are just invited in, with very little thought put into the process, very little regulation, very little overhead, and very little taxation, it is indeed an unfair advantage, and I can understand why Joe and Earl have spoken up so earnestly.
This is essentially the same issue as homeowners renting their properties on Airbnb and evading licensing, taxes and building code requirements while bed and breakfast establishments, inns and hotels are required to conform to onerous and expensive regulations. It's basically the same as food trucks coming in where restaurants have extensive local investments in brick and mortar, or Uber drivers undercutting taxis as they don't have the medallions to purchase.
My thought process is that sometimes our local governmental agencies gloss over this, but it is very important that local merchants be heard clearly on these matters. Lilac Park in particular seems to host endless events such as the frequent crafts fairs which also directly take sales away from retailers in town.
All these events, including the farmers market, should be located in places that do not damage existing businesses, crowd the town needlessly, and take up limited parking spaces. The people who want to attend those can easily drive somewhere else — school parking lots, Shakespeare and Company, the Tanglewood parking lot, etc.
I hope the Select Board in Lenox is listening to these concerns and will make the right decisions.
Phil Coleman, Lenox