Street project collides with farmers’ market | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Street project collides with farmers’ market

Amanda Fehd

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / From left, Dale Sare, attorney for the American Legion, American Legion Commander Eugene Ross and Jim Coalwell, farmers' market organizer, worked with the city to open one of the driveways to the American Legion on Tuesday during the farmers' market as construction in the area temporarily closed some of the parking access.

The city admitted fault Tuesday in a dispute that erupted between a city employee and the farmers’ market organizer at the American Legion over parking and access issues.

The confrontation was resolved on the spot, but not before an attorney was brought in, and the city employee allegedly said he would pull up the permit for the market to see if they were in compliance.

“If they exceed their parking capacity, they can’t just go parking anywhere,” Jim Marino told the Tahoe Daily Tribune. Marino is a South Lake Tahoe city public works inspector.

No one can park on dirt in the city, he said. When asked if that was true before 2006, when best management practices are due for South Lake Tahoe, Marino said the city had no comment.

Marino was working on the Sierra Tract erosion control project directly behind the Legion.

The parking area under question had nothing to do with the erosion project and was brought up only as a threat after farmers’ market organizer Jim Coalwell showed up at 6 a.m. and complained when he found machinery parked in the American Legion lot and one of their driveways blocked, said Legion attorney Dale Sare.

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“It’s offensive when someone of authority tries to use threats of other issues that clearly should have been handled easily with minimal cooperation,” said Sare.

Coalwell called the Tribune fearing the city would shut down the farmers’ market by prohibiting parking in the Legion’s dirt area.

The city and the Legion have a contract which prohibits the city from interfering with special events or blocking their two driveways, Sare said.

The city unblocked the driveway after Sare appeared.

City employees are under stress after working 12-hour days to get the work completed by the Oct. 15 deadline, after which disturbance of dirt is prohibited, according to Bill Williamson, acting city engineer.

“There were some errors made in judgment by our staff member,” said Williamson.

“The city staff position should be and should have been, we only carry out the duties assigned to us on that day,” Williamson said, adding “Jim’s one of our best soldiers.”

The project will be out of that area in a couple of days, he said.

Vendors allegedly began yelling at Marino that morning when they discovered the project had partially blocked access to their market, according to Williamson, which added pressure on his overstretched staff.

The erosion control project has had some public relations challenges, he said, but will ultimately have great benefit by restoring vegetation and preventing pollutants from entering Lake Tahoe.

The Legion has had a special use permit for special events such as the farmer’s market for 15 years, Sare said.

Parking on dirt is something the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency discourages because it causes erosion. Dirt parking spaces should be paved, they contend, and included in best management practices. BMPs are due for all commercial and residential properties in South Lake Tahoe by 2006.

The Legion is already working on its BMPs, Sare said.