The Neighborhood Planning Unit B board has unanimously approved the new city ordinance regulating the operation of farmers markets within the city, but it is likely to come around again for another vote in April.

In January, the NPU-B board heard a full discussion of the new Atlanta ordinance that had been worked out during a year of negotiations, but the board could not vote on the ordinance because the Planning Department’s representative was not present.

It is one of those bureaucratic things.

So, city planner Jessica Jessica Lavandier was at the Feb. 1 meeting of the NPU-B. board and made her presentation on the ordinance, which was followed by a unanimous vote of approval by the NPU board.

However, that apparently is not the end of the matter. Lavandier told the board a revised version of the ordinance is likely to come back for another vote in April.

Why? It seems another NPU would like to make a few minor changes in the ordinance before it becomes final, Lavandier explained.

When board members questioned why they had been asked to vote on an ordinance that was going to be rewritten anyway, they were told it was a vote accepting the “basic principle” of the new law. After all, the major farmers markets will open for business the first weekend of April.

This was not an ordinance that just popped up out of the blue. The ordinance was created through a cooperative effort — spanning almost a year — between the city’s director of sustainability and some of the managers of farmers markets in the city.

Peachtree Road Farmers Market manager Lauren Carey, who participated in the process of drafting the ordinance, told NPU-B board members Jan. 4 that she supports the ordinance, which for the first time defines farmers markets and sets standards for their operation.

The Peachtree Road Farmers Market, which operates almost nine months of the year in the parking lot of the Cathedral of Saint Philip in the 2700 block of Peachtree Road, is one of the largest and most successful in the city. It is located in NPU-B and is the only “farmers market” physically located in Buckhead.

The ordinance defines a farmers’ market as “an outdoor market open to the public selling farm products or value-added farm products.”

The city’s neighborhood planning units were asked to take a look at the measure, which also requires farmers to sell produce they have grown and products they have made or to notify customers — in 2-inch-tall type — if the produce or products came from another source.

The ordinance also would regulate the sales of products such as jams, jellies, salsa, soups and sausage, which fall under the definition of “value-added farm products.”

The city would not have a team of inspectors to enforce the ordinance; but, if a citizen makes a complaint, the police will respond to the complaint. A citizen’s complaint about a farmers’ market led to the drafting of the proposed ordinance.

Farmers’ markets now can only receive a Special Administrative Permit (SAP) from the city, which is only valid for 90 days. The proposed ordinance would allow the markets to obtain a 12-month operating permit, which would have to be renewed annually.

John Schaffner

John Schaffner was founding editor of Reporter Newspapers.