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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Local Farmers Market’s Yearly Review OK’d by Planning Commission

• Complaints about Business and Operation Are Aired But Don’t Affect Assessment

BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission at its Monday night meeting listened to the staff report regarding the Cornucopia Foundation’s Farmers Market annual review process.
Associate Planner Ha Ly told the commissioners the Conditional Use Permit approved for the farmers market has as a condition of approval a yearly review of the operations of the market, which is set up on the county-owned parking lot of the Civic Center complex.
The review is to determine whether the market is in compliance with the conditions of the permit.
Ly said a site visit was made during the operation of the market and encountered only one problem: a vendor using plastic bags who was immediately told to stop by the applicant and did so.
“The market was in conformance with the conditions of approval,” said the city planner.
However, Malibu resident and attorney, Carolyn Wallace said there are all kinds of problems at the market that the planning panel should look into.
“I applied to the market. I’m at four other markets and was denied access to the Malibu market. That hurts my business. The farmers market is supposed to support local businesses,” said Wallace, who indicated she sells jellies and jams.
Wallace said she could find nothing that indicates the Cornucopia Foundation exists or if it actually operates the farmers market.
“I don’t’ know if there is a foundation. There seems to be questionable business practices. They are a non-profit, but records show there is a $42,000 surplus at the end of 2012, yet the fees are being raised,” she said.
“People [vendors] are dropping out. There have been a number of complaints about the market, and I’m requesting the staff forward the complaints to the commission.” Wallace added.
Turning back to the staff, Chair John Mazza asked if there were any violations of the CUP. Ly said “No.”
“Are there any code enforcement complaints?,” he asked. “No,” the staffer answered.
Commissioner Mikke Pierson said he has discussed the matter with one of the planners and also disclosed that he knows Wallace, who is a friend of his mother.   
“I was told there is nothing we can do. This exercise seems like a complete waste of time. If there are issues, we need to find out how they can be addressed. The planning commission has no power over this,” Pierson said.
Commissioner Jeff Jennings said he recalled that a while back there had been complaints. “When does the CUP expire?” he asked.
Planning Director Joyce Parker Bozylinski said the CUP runs with the land and does not expire [the usual condition of a CUP].
Jennings said as long as the applicant has the lease with the county, Cornucopia can apparently continue to run the market.
Pierson wanted to know what is available for local growers or producers.
Planner Ly said there is a small area dedicated to local growers and they don’t pay the regular rental rates for a tent, but share one and donate 10 percent of their proceeds to the market.
Pierson wanted to know if 65 percent, as is required, of the market is certified for growers per square feet.
“Do they have the correct certification?” he asked. He was told yes.
Parker Bozylinski said the 65 percent was chosen because the council wanted to have a farmers market and not a flea market.
Pearson said, “This goes on forever, but times change.”
“We have no mechanism to revisit it,” said the planning director. Whereupon, Mazza said, “This is why we have the review.” We could bring it back for revocation [of the CUP]. Most CUPs do not have this kind of review.”
The commission on a 4-0 vote with Commissioner David Brotman absent voted to receive and file the report and took no further action.

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