WCOM Flea Market Flap

Yesterday the Herald reported on WCOM's complaint that the Town of Carrboro was bogging them down by suggesting a public hearing on the proposal to run a flea market in their parking lot.

All WCOM station manager Chris Frank wanted to do was raise a little money for the community radio station.

But he says he dreams of a small community flea market are being derailed by a well-meaning -- but overly complicated -- town bureaucracy...

"It looks like the concerned staff wants to have a public hearing on our 'minor modification,' " Frank wrote in an e-mail Friday. "We can probably say 'so long' to a flea market this season. Heaven help the developer with a substantial project."
- heraldsun.com: Radio station's flea market faces snag, 6/5/06

Given the miniscule size and the busy location of the WCOM parking lot, I think proposal should face some scrutiny! I'm glad to hear that Carrboro's staff wants to ensure the safety of the many thousands of people who pass by the intersection of Weaver and North Greensboro Streets every day.

I support WCOM's mission very much, but it doesn't mean they should be entitled to do things no-one else would be allowed to do. The station wants to capitalize on the foot traffic generated by the Carrboro Farmers Market and Weaver Street Market - who wouldn't? All the Town staff is asking is to have a public hearing on the proposed change. Wouldn't a community radio station want the public to air any concerns they have?

Actually, it sounds like maybe they are not as worried about this challenge as Frank said. The WCOM web site prominently advertises:

Just cranking up, the
CALL 929-9601, or email

I think they'll get over it.



I've seen signs (or something) advertising the flea market for months. I think WCOM just didn't anticipate it would be so complicated to get approved. Why not just approve pending observation for a few weeks to determine whether it throws the traffic out of wack in the area? A public hearing sounds like a bit much to me, to be honest. A flea market can easily be cancelled if it doesn't work well. It's not like a permanent transformation in the use of the property. When streets hold those '20 family' yard sales it messes up the traffic--should those also require a public hearing?

Guess they thought it would be easier to get forgiveness than permission--after all, it's Carrboro!


But it did generate one of the great quotes of the year when Berkeley Grimball said something about not selling tube socks.

Public hearings are labor intensive and tme-consuming for applicants. I've seen "public hearing" used as a delaying tactic on occasion (quite effectively), but staff appears willing to grease the wheels for the WCOM open air market. Hence the resolution on the table to give the open air market a three-month conditional use permit. Three months is plenty of time to give it a proper shake-down.

So are they planning on having this flea market in that tiny parking area on Greensboro? Or in the larger flea market on the other side of the building, on Weaver Street?

Not sure why this is worthy of a thread, but the latest is that the town set a public hearing for June 27. I"m not sure the town has a whole lot of recourse here anyway. WCOM is the tenant and has plenty of parking and the area is zoned commercial. Apparently the town staff was worried about people parking in the town municipal lot which in theory is reserved for Century Center parking (how many people know that?). Of course plenty of people going to FIDO, WSM elsewhere already park there so not sure why a flea market is distinguishable on that count. And I actually need some tube socks.

The concern raised was that the property is in the B-1(G) zone which was established for parts of downtown that have close proximity to residential areas. The board typically pays more scrutiny to projects in that zone ("to prevent unreasonable disruptions to the peace and quiet of a nearby residential area" - Land Use Ordinance).

David is correct that the parking is more than adequate under the town guidelines.

I spoke with Chris Frank of WCOM this morning and he expressed satisfaction with the outcome.

Considering that it's going to be at the same time as the Farmer's Market - a.k.a. when parking is already a premium - I can understand the concern. If WCOM is using their parking lot for the flea market, where will the flea market shoppers park? Presumably at least SOME of their customers will not be on foot.

You'll have to continue to go to Chapel Hill for your tube socks, David. ;-)

Don't forget about the Dollar Store for tube socks.

Hi, all-

The staff has stated that we meet all the requirements related to this "minor modification" to our permitted use. The public hearing will allow the public to weigh in.

We hope that we can create a successful market, and of course that will mean more traffic on "market days". Parking is tight down around the Farmers Market, for sure, but I did an unofficial survey two Saturdays ago, and the available city lots (by Armadillo and the new one on Weaver St) were both nearly empty just before noon, on a beautiful shopping day. Also, there was plenty of parking at the Venable building, RBC and Dr. Wojiak's lot.

The market can be a great business incubator for grassroots retailers. True, a WalMart at Starpoint might lessen congestion in downtown Carrboro, but I'd rather put my shoulder behind this project.


PS I'll be walking- Ruby, you can park in front of my house on Evans Ct anytime


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