Before an overflowing room of onlookers, the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously on Tuesday night to give permission for the Westford Farmers' Market use of the this year, while committing town resources to increasing pedestrian and traffic safety associated with the event.
Although support for the market’s existence currently appears to be near universal in town, two viewpoints arose during a debate simmering prior to the meeting.
On one side, residents during market days, especially once road construction near Minot’s Corner began in earnest for the upcoming Cornerstone Square project.
On the other side, residents had been advocating to keep the market in the Common, citing concerns that business would drop off in a different location and that the town center’s character was also crucial in the market’s success.
However, for much of the hearing, safety proved to be the key issue, with police and fire officials testifying that the market had been associated with eight accidents over the past five years and that egress for emergency vehicles was limited on market Tuesdays due to vehicles needing to drive more slowly around the increased number of pedestrians in the area.
Police Chief Thomas McEnaney told the board that he frequented the market himself and understood how it had become part of the town’s fabric, but urged the board to purchase crosswalk signs in roads near the Common as well as near schools.
Other options given ranged from specialized areas for vendor loading and unloading to allowing the public to use police parking spaces on market days to the possibility of flashing traffic signs comparable to those found elsewhere in town, which Assistant Town Manager John Mangiaratti said the town had applied for grant toward.
Among residents testifying to the board, the tone was heavily in favor of keeping the market on the Common, with voices ranging in ideas on how to help alleviate traffic and safety concerns to straight forward support.
Desree Polevy of Hildreth Street lives within walking distance of the Common and told the board she almost got run over by a car shortly after moving to her house, but that the market was vital despite any amount of traffic.
“I think (the market) adds character and ambiance to the town,” she said. “I am concerned with traffic, but I think that’s mainly from the commercial areas (on 110).”
The Farmer’s Market will run on Tuesdays from June to October, with a subsequent follow-up agenda item on the market scheduled for a selectmen’s meeting in November.