Cotati market to see changes
ACEFM to run event on Thursday nights in La Plaza Park
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By Dave Williams  April 25, 2014 12:00 am

Changes are in the works for Cotati’s Farmers Market, which is scheduled to bein its summer-long run on June 5 in La Plaza Park. The final market of the year is Aug. 28.

The Cotati City Council on Tuesday unanimously voted to allow Agricultural Community Events Farmers Markets, a nonprofit organization, to take over operations of the weekly Thursday night event. ACEFM will work in conjunction with the Cotati Chamber of Commerce, which initially launched the Farmers Market.

ACEFM currently operate markets in Santa Rosa, Marinwood, Glen Ellen, Petaluma, downtown Novato and Fairfax.

Attendance at the Cotati Farmers market has been sparse the last couple of years, paling in comparison to Rohnert Park’s popular Friday Night Farmers Market. Kelly Smith and Jim Fenton, who own and operate ACEFM, have some ideas on boosting the market’s appeal.

“Updating the content and staying on top of it is one of the most important parts of running a farmers market,” Fenton said. “When you lose a vendor or someone, you’ve got to replace them right away. If you lose content, you lose people.”

One of the changes will be the vendors no longer will be on the street on the west side of the park. Instead, the vendors will actually be on the grass in the park. Fenton and Smith believe this will help connect patrons and vendors to the music playing at the bandstand. 

ACEFM’s permit calls for exclusive use of La Plaza Park; La Plaza street closure between West Sierra and West Cotati avenues; exclusive use of adjacent parking spaces on La Plaza between Old Redwood Highway and West Cotati Avenue; amplified live entertainment; and alcohol beverage sales.

“The goal is the make the Farmers Market something worth going to,” Smith said. “We look at what community looks for in a market. We look to partner with local businesses and work with the schools. The market is for the community and the vendors, we’re just the facilitators.”

Smith said there already has been increased interest from vendors concerning the market. The total cost to Cotati to support the proposed 13-night event is estimated to be $1,003, which will be absorbed within the operational budgets of each affected department.

Councilman John Moore questioned why the street would need to be closed if the vendors are going to be on the grass in the park. 

“The street wouldn’t necessarily need to be closed the entire time,” Cotati Community Development Director Vicki Parker said. “It’ll likely closed for portion of day for set up and tear down. In order to maintain flexibility for them (ACEFM) to adapt their planning, we might want to start with closing the street.”

According to a city staff report, ACEFM will play a one-time use fee of $731.25 and a refundable deposit of $500. The use fee amount is based on an hourly use rate of $18.75 ($150 per eight hours and 13 three-hour events). The slightly higher than usual deposit is designed to help ensure the park is returned clean after each of the 13 market nights. Also, in order to keep city support costs to a minimum, ACEFM will be responsible for their own equipment (including tables, chairs, barricades, signs and traffic cones) and street closures. This will eliminate the need for Public Works staff to assist with weekly set up or monitor return of city property. Police staff will continue to ensure that traffic flows safely around the road closures.

Community Development and Cotati Police staff would absorb their time to process the request and monitor road closures (estimated total of $350 and $520, respectively) and Public Works staff would absorb the cost of installing and removing the four market signs at the city’s gateways at an estimated cost of $133.

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