Debate over the layout and schedule for the Downtown Hollister Farmers Market became testy Monday before a majority of council members voted to keep the event on Wednesdays with some changes.
Council members voted 3-2 on the item, which was a route proposal to close off streets for a variety of downtown events over the next year, including the farmers market that runs Wednesdays from May through September.
Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and Councilman Rolan Resendiz were against the consideration, arguing the market should be on weekends, among other changes. The Hollister Downtown Association, which runs the event, did make some adjustments in light of complaints by some business owners, such as offering free both spaces in front of those merchants’ locations and moving the market off the 400 block of San Benito Street.
Councilmembers Carol Lenoir, Marty Richman and Honor Spencer approved the item.
Before the vote, tensions rose among several city officials.
The mayor and City Manager Bill Avera even got into it a bit. That came after Avera challenged Velazquez’s recollection of the city’s approach to recovering expenses for the event, since the mayor on Monday was insistent Hollister do a better job of charging true costs for the market.
Velazquez responded that his prior stance doesn’t mean the city shouldn’t have an understanding of the costs. He argued if the city doesn’t attempt to recover true costs on the farmers market, it shouldn’t have to do so on the canceled motorcycle rally, of which Velazquez is an outspoken proponent.
“And you said you did not want cost recovery on those,” Avera said during his exchange with the mayor.
Additionally during discussion on the item, Spencer accused Velazquez and Resendiz of having conflicts of interest on the item, alleging they were founding members of a downtown group competing with the Hollister Downtown Association, which runs the farmers market.
“I think there’s a conflict and that you should not be talking,” Spencer said.
Both Velazquez and Resendiz spoke up saying they were not founding members of another downtown group.
“I’m not a founding member of any organization and I’m not a member of HDA as well,” Velazquez said.
Several business owners who are part of that emerging group spoke during public comment with negative opinions of the current market plans. Business owners from Johnny’s Bar & Grill, Hollister House and Ohana Shave Ice all spoke about logistical issues created by the market, such as their storefronts being blocked by vendors, and claimed they lost business those days.
Then Councilman Richman joined the fray as well. Richman said those complaining business owners don’t do enough to adjust while there are hundreds of people in the downtown area.
“I believe this is an ambush, and it really makes me madder than hell,” Richman said of the item on the consent agenda of the meeting before motioning for its approval.