Town buys farmers market land

Dozens of people flock to Coupeville Farmers Market every Saturday to buy locally-grown produce and hand-made arts and crafts. But produce isn’t the only thing that recently changed hands — the town of Coupeville purchased the land the farmers market sits on.

The Town Council is paying $140,000 for the vacant lot on the block where Town Hall and the County Deli are located. That price is $15,000 less than the appraised value of the commercially-zoned property.

Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard said the owner of the land, Michael Ciraolo, an attorney based in Oakland, Calif., came forward and offered to sell the property to the town.

“I took a trip out here last year and realized it was a defacto town square,” Ciraolo said, adding that he felt the town could find a better use of the land than an outside developer could.

Conard said although the town is making cutbacks, the council should approve the purchase, then give the town a couple of years to gather resident input to figure out a future use for the property.

The town council recently approved closing Town Hall on Fridays as part of a plan to save $90,000 in operating expenses.

The land is zoned for commercial use and if a developer bought the property, the town wouldn’t have much input in how it is developed, Conard said.

The town does have approximately an $89,000 balance in its Real Estate Excise Tax fund that it could use as a down payment for the property with the remainder financed. The town would pay off the balance with part of the $40,000 a year the fund collects each year.

The tax is deposited into the town’s Capital Improvement Fund and can only be used for such projects.

The town used these funds in a similar way to purchase the land behind Coupeville Library on Alexander Street.

One possible use that was bantered about at a recent town council meeting was to convert the lot into a town square.

Coupeville resident Gordon Burton brought a conceptual design of what a possible town square would look like.

The town could also use a small piece of the property to expand the parking at Town Hall.

While the town figures out the future of the land, Conard said there isn’t any immediate concern over the market’s fate.

“Everybody wants to make sure it continues,” Conard said Wednesday.

During the meeting, Town Councilman Marshall Bronson pointed out that Coupeville’s farmers market is located in the middle of town and attracts people to downtown businesses.

Ciraolo bought the property in the late 1970s with the hope of building retail shops on the ground floor and apartments above where he and his wife could live.

After his wife died last year, Cialolo realized that he wasn’t going to develop the property. He is currently buying a Nordic tug that will allow him to travel up and down the West Coast.

City leaders must also decide whether they want to purchase the former Island Mental Health building located on Main Street.

The building has been vacant since the mental health agency moved to its new location last month and the county doesn’t have any use planned for the building.

The town would like to level the building and possibly expand the neighboring park, but first has to negotiate with the county for the price.

Conard wouldn’t comment on how much the town may be willing to pay for the building.

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