The town government of Charlotte, Vt., will be informing a local flea market within a week that its 40-year tradition of hospitality must come to an end. For many years, the Charlotte Flea Market, located on Route 7 between Vergennes and Burlington in Vermont, has welcomed out-of-state vendors. These sellers would prefer not to break down their booths and go home between the Saturday and Sunday markets, so they were allowed to stay in RVs or to otherwise camp on site, keeping watch over their wares, and over the tables of other vendors who did leave the site.
According to a report in the Burlington Free Press, the out-of-staters brought their own water and used the port-a-potties on site without any problem, a practice that continued for decades. But now the town selectboard has issued an ultimatum: come into compliance with local regulations — three or more campsites require a special wastewater permit — or lose your lease.
Town of Charlotte selectboard assistant Dean Bloch explains that the town decided to send a letter to the flea market asking that it come into compliance with the zoning requirements. That letter will go out within a week, he says.
“There wasn’t an official action,” says Bloch. “The selectboard received a letter from the zoning administrator regarding potential violations on the property. The selectboard will send that to the lessee, the flea market operator, to make them aware of the violations and with a suggestion that the violations can’t continue.”
Daniel Jones, who operates the flea market with his son, Roy, is eager to get that letter. “I’m waiting for their decision. I’d like to know what they have planned, not only this year, but for next year, I don’t need any changes in my lease.”
The market charges $7 per table, and on a nice day brings in 30 to 33 vendors. It runs April through October on land leased from the town.
Jones says that a town selectman became aware of the issue after a big storm. “A certain Mr. Ed Stone stuck his nose in there and caused a lot of trouble. The thing has been there for over four decades, and there was never any question about it.”
Jones says that he does not see why there is a concern. “They do not camp there beyond Sunday night. He gave them the impression that I was running a camp site down there. My son stays over because he runs the place. There’s Hank, Charlene, Andre, that’s about it. Four or five at the most that stay over. The rest go home, but they leave their merchandise,” says Jones.
Town selectman Ed Stone responded by citing an article by Nancy Woods in the July 1 Charlotte News. Stone says that “up to ten vendors from out of state spent the night at the flea market property during weekends of operations.”
“This situation puts the town in violation of both local and land-use regulations as well as the wastewater disposable systems that are administered by the town for the state,” Stone says. “A campground means any lot of land containing more than three camp sites.” Moreover, the flea market is in an area zoned for commercial use, and town regulations forbid operation of a campground in commercial areas. He added that state wastewater regulations require a permit for camp site operations, and the market has no such permit.
“It is quite obvious that Mr. Jones is in violation of that,” says Stone.
Amending the lease to allow campers would put the town in violation of those state regulations. “Use of the town property for regulated activities without proper permitting should cease immediately,” he says. “We will advise Mr. Jones of this by sending him a letter.”
Selectman Stone made a point of empathizing with the plight of the market and its owner. “We like Mr. Jones. It’s just that we’ve run into this situation,” Stone says. “It’s just that it’s sort of like a dump now, because of his health. He’s had a heart attack, and wasn’t able to keep up with the storms that blew down several things over there. We totally are compassionate, and we understand that the man is up against it, and that’s probably one of the reasons that we are not full bore trying to get him out of there. We’ll honor his lease and hope for the best for him. But with the state breathing down the town’s neck, we have certain fiduciary duties.”
Photo credit, with thanks, to Ben Sarle of the Free Press.
July 14 Update: Another interesting read on this topic was posted today in the Free Press.