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Food truck park, farmers market proposed on Route 179 near Canton

By Ted Glanzer

Staff Writer 

BURLINGTON – With concerns over noise, parking, waste disposal, bears and water access, the Burlington Planning and Zoning Commission on June 13 continued a public hearing on a proposal for a food truck park and farmers market on Route 179. The location is just a short drive from Avon, Canton and Farmington. 

Developer BCNW, an LLC backed by Neal Winn and Brandon Casey, proposed that the park be built out in phases, though there was some confusion over how the project would be phased out. The presentation by the developer initially said there would be two phases, with the first one being a modest hot dog cart and a coffee truck on the 3-acre site on Canton Road.

That initial phase would be completed within a year, and the long-term phase of a farmers market and additional food trucks to be added within two to five years. During the hearing Winn and Casey said they would have to condense the timeline and essentially try to be ready for everything on Day 1.

“We aim to provide a welcoming and beautiful location alongside the natural splendor of the Farmington River where farmers, vendors, craftspeople, artisans, and culinary purveyors can gather with residents and visitors to  build a community marketplace in a park-like setting,” a presentation by Winn and Casey said.

The hours of operation would be Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Coffee would only be served from 6 to 10 a.m., and coffee and hot dogs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additional vendors would be added from 3 p.m. to close.

The application calls for the clearing of the 3-acre parcel of brush and trees, grading and repairing grounds, and the creation of a curb cut on Route 179. The parking lot would be gravel, and there would be a seating area with picnic tables as well as an area for the food trucks, the farmers market and portable toilets.

The presentation included long-term possibilities, such as an open-sided pavilion, a brookside walking trail and added seating and parking as needed. The maximum number of trucks that could fit on the site as planned would be five, the developers said.

“Some people refer to these as gastroparks,” Winn said at the meeting. “That’s kind of the hip making term for this. And it would be taking the piece of raw land that currently exists, converting it into, essentially, a park …  Just a nice open setting where people can park, people can walk, people can sit at picnic tables. We’ll bring in different vendors to provide food, and then also vendors to provide for the farmers market.”

Winn and Casey said the food trucks would be primarily during the week, with the farmers market rolling in on the weekends.

“But mostly when you deal with food truck traffic would be mostly nights from 3 p.m. to close,” Winn said. “Obviously weekends would be the biggest time for that.”

Zoning Officer Jerry Burns said the project is an appropriate use of the land, especially given the challenge “the land has a severely restricted sub-service sewage septic volume” because the state used the area as a drop zone when Route 179 was being constructed. 

“But the current applicants seem to have a novel approach that not only solves the onset of restrictions but can be within our … regulations for the proposed food truck, park, and farmers market location,” Burns said. 

Burns added that the food truck and farmers market vendors would be required to get a peddlers and hawkers permit from the town. 

“So it’s my determination that this proposed use on a business-state highway is compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods,” Burns said. “The food trucks are smaller, specially offered, similar to a restaurant, and the farmers’ markets will furnish fresh produce, fruit, and specialty crafts for the needs of the residents.

Just a handful of residents showed up at the meeting, but those that did voiced concerns over the project. 

George Zurles, who owns abutting property to the parcel, said the planned gastropark isn’t the only use for the property.

“Any business that wants to be there, a nursery, a construction company with two or three employers, could be there and not have any problems,” he said. 

Another issue, Zurles said, were the use of portapotties with the food trucks. 

“Many regulations and towns and municipalities have that if there are food trucks, there has to be warm running water and flush toilets available,” he said. “Now that can be met with equipment from the porta potty industry. It’s more expensive. … I think every one of you told your children, if you’re before eating, what do you want them to do? Wash their hands. When they go to the bathroom, what do you want them to do? Wash their hands.”

The farmers market, Zurles said, will have more traffic than what the parking can accommodate.

“The crowds that will be here, how many come to a farmer’s market in Collinsville?” he said.

“Have you seen the number of cards in our park there? Have you tried to get in yourself?

There’s a lot of people. It’s not just one or two.”

Zurles said there is room for 16 farmers market vendors, and 29 parking spaces. If the vendors park in spaces, that leaves just 13 spaces for customers. 

“Now, 13 people, or 13 vehicles, are going to satisfy the 16 boosts for enough customers and people walking around? No way. That’s not feasible,” he said. 

Zurles said the issue will be compounded if people park along Rt. 179 and cross the street, making it hazardous for pedestrians. 

“As you can see, I have my doubts,” Zurles said. “My family has owned this property since early 1907. I’m a third-generation person living on the family property. I’m making arrangements to pass it on to a fifth-generation. I served on your board. I have only the town’s best interests at heart.

The site will also attract bears, Susan Zurles said. Burns in his recommendation said the dumpsters had to have bear bars. But Susan Zurles said that wasn’t enough, as the food will be enough to attract bears to the site.

Others were concerned about lighting in the area, as well as the potential for loud music. One commissioner cited the food trucks themselves generate a lot of noise with their generators.

“So the one thing too, I want to add, you said circle back to some of the stuff on the, Bristol Burlington Health District has to approve a lot of stuff,” Burns said. “So the part of the water being brought in, and the trucks maintaining, that’s why they have to have their licensing off the date. Not temporary license, the real license. I don’t know if in the future they will do a well. That might be something that, you know, they may want to do in the future. That’s a good idea.”

Commissioners also said they wanted to see a more complete plan.

“Unfortunately, I’m very concerned about what you want to get started versus what it looks like to the end, and the end may never come,” Commissioner Mark Smaldone said.

Winn responded that he would be happy to include a more detailed plan.

“If you, if the board was open to our dream list, we would be more than happy to add these other elements in, and if we were instructed to do so, we would respond positively to that,” he said. “We would love nothing more than to put these other elements in place.”

That includes lighting and electrical for food trucks to plug in.

“We didn’t put them into the plan because we didn’t want to, we didn’t want to go too far with it and jeopardize potential approval,” he said.

Winn said he was amenable to a restriction on music, perhaps limiting to, at most, a performer with an acoustic guitar or some light sound system for ambient noise.

George Zurles, who was initially skeptical of the project, appeared to come around due to Winn’s and Casey’s flexibility in meeting the commission’s and community’s concerns.

The site layout plan included with the application.


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