Lyme farmers market draws bushels of backers

Residents raise their hands in support of Ashlawn Farm's farmers market at a public hearing conducted Monday by the Lyme Planning and Zoning Commission at the Lyme Consolidated School.

Lyme - Two hundred and eleven people crowded the gymnasium of Lyme Consolidated School on Monday evening to speak on the subject of Ashlawn Farm's farmers market and coffee shop, by the fire marshal's count.

And despite an attorney's claim that Ashlawn Farm owners Glenn "Chip" and Carol Dahlke were not complying with town regulations, the majority in the audience said they continued to support both the seasonal farmers market and coffee shop that the Dahlkes operate on their property at 78 Bill Hill Road.

"I know you have a tough job ahead of you," resident H. Kaye Griffin said. "You need to do what needs to be done to keep this wonderful Ashlawn Farm. Don't take it away."

Griffin and a dozen others spoke Monday at the Planning and Zoning Commission's informational hearing, scheduled as part of the commission's review of the 2002 special permit for the operation of the farmers market.

Two people in the crowd identified themselves as being opposed to the farmers market but did not address the commission.

The two did not include Matthew Abrams, owner of the property next door to the Dahlkes who last month formally complained that the Dahlkes did not hold the proper permits to continue operation of their farmers market, coffee shop or outdoor wood furnace.

Those in favor of the market spoke of a sense of community the market and coffee shop have helped instill and the opportunity the market has given farmers to sell locally grown products.

Marta Cone, who lives across the street from the Dahlkes, said she wasn't bothered by the farmers market.

"We consider ourselves really, really lucky to live where we do," she said. "The farm market is wonderful. We love it, we look forward to it."

Abrams, through his attorney John Bennet, is requesting not only a cease-and-desist on the farmers market but also on the coffee business and the outdoor furnace.

"This is not about the quality of the products that may be sold there," Bennet said.

Bennet said his review of town files showed that the Dahlkes began the farmers market without proper permits and that the permit later obtained only allowed the market to operate from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays.

The farmers market runs on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings during the summer and fall months.

The Dahlkes are also operating a café and coffee roasting business without a permit, Bennet said. The only application Bennet said he found in town records was that for an expansion of the roasting business.

Ashlawn Farm is "a 4-acre residential lot which is being used in a residential zone for a commercial enterprise," Bennet said. "Somebody needs to get control of this operation. Nowhere else in town do you allow this."

Resident Ron Wojcik asked commissioners to do what they could to ensure the farmers market was back open in the spring.

"The farmer is not the problem," Wojcik said. "The market is not the problem. The problem is paperwork."

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