JOSHUA TREE — The farmers market has a numbers problem. Every Saturday, around 35 vendors sell food and goods on a lot parallel to the highway. But the permit from San Bernardino County only allows 12 vendors. Since county code enforcement found out about that gap a few weeks ago, a lot of anger and confusion have seeped in.

“They haven’t been ordered to shut down. We don’t do that unless people are in immediate threat of harm,” county spokesman David Wert said Tuesday.

“What we have said is they have to immediately comply with the permit,” Wert added. 

“The permit could not be any more clear as to what their limits are.”

The code enforcement division sent farmers market founder Lori Herbel a letter dated Oct. 1 warning her the market has failed to comply with the conditions of her minor use permit, issued in 2009.

The letter told her she had to contact the planning department to get a new permit and in the meantime, return to running a market strictly within her permit requirements.

Herbel and the market’s business manager, Harry Bowkley, announced Saturday that the market would shrink to allow farm vendors only on Oct. 12. Bolstered by an outpouring of support, however, Herbel and Bowkley changed their mind, saying Tuesday they’d contacted all of their vendors to tell them to return Oct. 12.

“We were going to take it down to the 12 farmers and after public outcry … we decided we’d open the market back up on Saturday to its full 35 vendors and operate,” Herbel said Tuesday afternoon.

Joshua Tree Coffee Company owner Royce Robertson started an online petition on change.org in support of the farmers market. The petition exceeded 4,000 signatures in four days. Herbel and Bowkley say they’re responding to locals’ voices.

“We are again going to ask the county for some time to revise our permit to allow us to operate under our present conditions,” Herbel said.

She and Bowkley are also exploring whether to move to another location.

Herbel said the market’s permit allowed 12 vendors based on the 6,000 square feet she reported the market would cover, but the market grew into more space over time, and with the permission of the property owners.

“The market space has doubled since the original minor use permit,” Bowkley said.

According to Wert, the farmers market needs to get a “revision to approved action,” which would revise their existing permit. “County planning staff would gladly work with them on this,” Wert said.

However, the farmers market may have to meet more cumbersome standards to get that revision. Herbel said planning department staff told her she would need to provide a traffic officer . She and Bowkley argue it isn’t the farmers market that’s causing traffic in downtown Joshua Tree.

“The traffic in the downtown area is not due to the farmers market, it’s due to the increase in visitors to the park,” she said.

Wert said public outcry like the petition can only go so far with county planning.

“I think it provides additional impetus to the county to work with these folks because obviously it seems like this is something that is popular,” he said.

But they still have to comply with their permit, he added: “These codes are based on public safety and reducing public nuisances and whether or not people love something doesn’t mitigate any public safety factors that arise.”

Herbel hopes the community’s support will help the market continue to thrive. “One of the beautiful things about a farmers market is it’s a wonderful cooperation between the farmers-slash-vendors and the community and it’s the community that supports them,” she said.

(12) comments

TITUS

Sorry but Joshua Tree is an isolated community and some of the residents have extreme difficulty comprehending written material and following the law.[ohmy]

CheRojo

Hopefully Yucca Valley can poach it.

Victor_S

The petition is now over 5,000 signatures, and some of the comments there are great. One in particular speculates why the county is spendign so much time and energy on a harmless farmers market, when it should be focusing that energy on better law enforcement on things like break-ins, shop thefts, and the continuing drug problems in the hi-desert.

jtturtlegirl

Maybe the farmer's market folks could investigate moving the Market to the old "Joshua Tree Trading Post" (historically the Joshua Tree Lumber Yard, for long-time residents reference) property. Vendors could choose to be inside or outside, weather would not be an issue, there would be safer access to the venues on the North side of the 62. May have fewer people jaywalking, also. Just a serving suggestion.

AJTParson

Got it. Permits are permits. But maybe the track record of the Farmers Markets success should be taken into consideration. Maybe JT doesn’t need the traffic officer for the farmers market. Don’t worry though, “we’re from the government and we’re here to help.” Hopefully this gets solved quickly and with the least amount of paperwork as possible.

Josh

Looks like titus finally found a place to fit in amongst peers......Joshua Tree .

Josh

Honestly, Im glad its running into problems. Mostly because it is ran like a third world market place .Not so much the vendors, but those running it . KHARMA!

Branson Hunter

The person who runs Farmers Market is doing a fine job and giving visitors and all the residents to buy and eat healthy food. The location of the farmers market is perfect it should not be moved

Branson Hunter

Josh, you are stirring the pot and libeling a good honorable person. I enjoy reading your comments Josh but put a little more thought into it, can you?

Parker





Sad to see the county react so quick and harsh.

However I do believe this issue can be simply addressed with a very positive outcome that will handle several critical issues surrounding the downtown traffic, parking, and pedestrian concerns.



I think it's long overdue to make a few major changes for the better.

Close off Sunset Rd south of Division Rd, and at Hwy 62 to the south, and force Sunset's northbound traffic over to Hill View Rd and or Park Blvd.

Place a new traffic signal at Hill View Rd at Hwy 62 to accommodate the traffic flow. Close access to the parking/frontage road at Hill View. All traffic for parking enters from the Division Rd area. Also add a new traffic signal at Sunset Rd at Hwy 62 with a pedestrian crossing. That signal would provide safe traffic entering from southbound towards Hwy 62. Plus the well needed pedestrian crossing with a traffic signal will make crossing the highway much safer for the heavy foot traffic at that area as we know it.

Parking will now be abundant in the empty lots to the south of the farmers market. Some of those lots could be obtained by eminent domain if the owners do not want to sell at fair price.


Josh

Branson, If you're trying to kill me with kindness its working.

I feel like a crumb for my comments now. And I'm not being sarcastic. I'll straighten it up.

Branson Hunter

Wow. That's impressive Josh. I can say very easily Josh has character.

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