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Town gives farmers market a nod.
By Clellie Allen
ROLESVILLE — Not enough money, not enough volunteers and not enough time to drum up either was the message from commissioners Tuesday evening as they made the decision to cancel this year’s Fourth of July fireworks and Independence Day carnival.
For many years, the Rolesville Area Chamber of Commerce has handled the enormous task of organizing vendors, concessions, live bands and the army of volunteers needed to host the town’s Independence Day celebration with Wake Forest-based S&W Productions as the pyrotechnic company. The event has been free for the public, although volunteers collected donations and corporate sponsorships were available.
Last fall, however, Chamber Executive Director Jenny Rowe told the town the chamber could not handle the event planning anymore. Commissioners were reluctant to assume responsibility for the planning or assign it to staff and embraced the volunteer efforts of Francis Cheek, secretary for the all-volunteer Rolesville Economic Development Action Committee (REDAC).
Cheek ran into the same problems the Chamber had with trying to obtain sponsorships and enough help.
To hold fireworks only and have the gates open at 8 p.m. with the light show at 9 p.m. would cost approximately $7,000, not including the public safety fees, Cheek told the board.
Commissioners decided they did not want to risk the possibility of ending up responsible for a large bill, particularly while already feeling the pinch with regard to trying to cover the budget for the new year.
Sign ordinance in effect May 1; enforcement delayed
Commissioners heard serious concerns from two local restaurant owners about the upcoming May 1 implementation of the new sign ordinance.
Janet Betts of Rosalini’s Pizza and Subs and Jacobi Affinnih of The Rolesville Grill told commissioners they rely heavily on their current sandwich board signs to draw traffic into their restaurants. Both said they feared the worst would happen if forced to remove their signs, as the ordinance requires — they might lose their businesses.
Betts told commissioners that because her Rogers Road restaurant is set back off the road with trees obscuring drivers’ views, the lack of signage by the road would not only have an immediate negative effect on business, but that it could become a safety issue as drivers would have to take their eyes off the road for too long to try and see what businesses were in the strip shopping center.
Affinnih spoke of how many new customers come in saying they didn’t know she was there except for her signs and how vital that type of low-cost, highly effective advertising was to her fledgling business.
Under the new ordinance, businesses inside the town limits would have until May 31 to remove all temporary signs. Town Attorney David York said staff concluded temporary signs constituted about 99 percent of all signage.
Business failing to comply with the removal by May 31 would receive letters beginning June 1 giving them notice of violation and a 24-hour deadline to comply. After that, civil penalties would kick in with a $50 fine per each day the business refuses to remove the signs.
After hearing from Betts and Affinnih, Commissioner Frank Hodge made a motion to delay enforcement of the new ordinance until Jan. 1, 2015. In previous meetings, as well as Tuesday, Hodge pointed out that because political speech is protected by federal law, candidates in the current election cycle were being allowed to put campaign signs up almost wherever they liked while small businesses were being forced to remove theirs. Commissioner Gil Hartis seconded the motion.
Commissioners Shannon Whitley and Betty Whitaker acknowledged the possible need to delay enforcement for up to 90 days, but balked at January. Whitley said she empathized with business owners, but that there had already been numerous opportunities for local businesses to participate during the decision making process, but that they had not.
Rolesville chamber President Sherwood Bobbitt told the board it was difficult for small business owners to stay on top of what was going on because so many of them not only were business owners, they were also their own chief employees — they literally did not have the time to be as involved as they would like.
Commissioners voted 3-2, with Whitaker and Whitley voting against, to extend the enforcement deadline to Jan. 1, 2015, giving the chamber and any other businesses a full eight-month window to work with staff and possibly present a text amendment proposal for the sign ordinance.
After the meeting, both Betts and Affinnih said they were very pleased with the board action.
“I don’t think it will take us until Jan. 1 to come up with a fair and reasonable solution,” she said. “I believe this board wants to help businesses succeed. And I think we call all work together toward that goal.”
Affinnih agreed, saying she hoped they could reach a common ground and be able to retain some of the temporary signage currently being banned by the new ordinance.
“If we pay for a privilege license to be in Rolesville, we should be able to have a sign,” she said.
Affinnih said she was glad business owners were getting a second chance to join in the process, saying how difficult it was for many of them to break away from work to be able to come to meetings.
“I had to close early to get here tonight,” she said.
Betts added, “We should be opening our arms to owner-operated businesses. We want to feel good about being here.
“To not be able to grow your business appropriately feels uncomfortable,” she said. “We need a consensus.”
Farmers market looks promising
The details of exactly how everything will work out are still not clear, but commissioners gave a solid green light to Back to Basics LLC to start organizing a market at the location of the old post office, 105 W. Young St. Back to Basics is a partnership between Wake Forest residents Mark and Sara Lynn Bloodworth and Rolesville resident Francis Cheek.
Commissioners also asked Town Manager Bryan Hicks to work with Cheek and the area farmers who have expressed an interest in the market, to form an advisory board to help with the decision-making process on things like hours, fees for vendors, types of products allowed and so forth. The advisory board would be subject to commissioners’ approval who will officially appoint members at a later commissioners meeting.
Cheek, on behalf of Back to Basics, asked the board to consider allowing her company to manage and operate the market, leasing the property at no cost for up to five years, with the town assisting in renovations to the existing old post office building, fixing the bathrooms and making other repairs.
Cheek also asked the town to pay for signage as well as advertising for the market.
In return, Back to Basics would install an 18-feet by 36-feet shelter, similar to an RV carport, as well as maintain all liability insurance needed for the market.
Several of the commis-sioners expressed their en-thusiasm for the project, but wanted to also see hard data for how much the town would be expected to contribute.
Hicks noted that other area farmers markets do not receive funding from their respective towns. The Wake Forest Farmers Market, for example, is operated by a private market manager and is held in a downtown parking lot of a private company.