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Mystic River Park use at heart of dispute; merchants angered by rejection of farmer's market proposal

By Deborah Straszheim

Publication: The Day

Published May 20. 2014 4:00AM

Mystic - Downtown merchants failed in their effort to oust longtime members of the Mystic River Park Commission on Monday during the Mystic Fire District's Annual meeting.

The meeting, jammed with more than 120 people, instead voted to re-elect commissioners David Snediker and Marshall Yudin to three-year terms.

The merchants challenged the commissioners after they denied a request to use the park for a farmer's market. Snediker, a commissioner for 16 years, said he supports farmers but the park was founded on the principle that there be no commercial enterprise.

Todd Brady, one of those who ran for a seat, said that didn't make sense to him.

"When they have the blues festival, the band is paid," said Brady, an owner of Factory Square and the Mystic Downtown Marina. "I don't see how you can permit a band to get paid during a blues festival but not a farmer to sell his vegetables."

Bill Middleton, owner of an investment advising firm, also challenged the commission for a seat.

It took more than a half hour to register people as voters filled the meeting hall to standing room only at B.F. Hoxie Fire House. At last year's annual meeting, 29 people attended.

The Mystic fire district straddles Stonington and Groton and includes residents from both communities.

Lilli Rebich, of Stonington, said she attended because of the park. "We want to keep it as quaint as possible," she said. "Keep it a nonprofit as it has always been."

Susan Fridy, of Groton, lives across the river from the park. She said her husband co-owns a dairy farm in Franklin with his three nephews. Yet she doesn't want a farmer's market in the park, she said.

"They can do what the Taste of Mystic does, which is get permission to use Cottrell Street," she said. "They don't need to pull up trucks on the lawn."

The annual meeting also re-elected Herb Holmstedt to a one-year term as an alternate commission member, re-elected William M. Cannon to a three-year term on the board of directors and re-elected John Kennedy to a one-year term as treasurer.

Paul Sartor was also elected as an alternate member.

The meeting approved a budget of $2.02 million for the coming fiscal year and set the fire tax rate at 1.82 mills for Stonington and at 2.31 mills for Groton.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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