Once-closed farm stand can resume sales
Vendors may sell fruit, vegetables on residential property
Owners of a popular fruit and vegetable stand can continue operating in the parking lot of a Bethesda church without violating the law.
A zoning text amendment approved by the Montgomery County Council on May 4 allows for agricultural vendors, such as the popular Twin Springs Fruit Farm that sets up shop Wednesdays at the Concord St. Andrews United Methodist Church, to sell their wares on residential property.
"We're delighted," said the Rev. John Warren, pastor of the church. "It's a wonderful outreach to the community, and a way we have of serving the community by them being there."
After a complaint was filed in September, operators of the Twin Springs Fruit Farm learned from the county Department of Permitting Services that the stand violated county law because it was a commercial operation in a residential zone, said Susan Scala-Demby, the county's zoning manager. The vendor was the only market in the county operating on residential property illegally, Scala-Demby said.
Before the complaint was filed, the county had permitted Twin Springs under a zoning regulation typically reserved for mobile vendors such as ice cream trucks, Scala-Demby said. But officials ruled the regulation could not be applied to the vendor.
Twin Springs fought the closure via the media, a petition and contacting elected officials. Loyal patrons lent their support. County Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Potomac drafted the zoning text amendment.
The amendment allows for certified agricultural producers a vendor that sells fruits, vegetables and other goods grown in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.to set up shop on residential property, under certain conditions. The property must be larger than two acres, abut a four-lane roadway, and be used for non-residential purposes, such as a church. According to the amendment, the vendor must also sell for less than 24 hours at a time.
The amendment was passed unanimously by the County Council.
Jeremy Criss, the county's agricultural services manager, said he advocated for the legislation because it provides more access points for residents to buy locally grown food in the more heavily populated downcounty.
The Twin Springs market donates some of its proceeds to Concord St. Andrew's church, accounting for 12 percent of the church's annual budget, according to a statement from the church.
Aubrey King, one of the owners of Twin Springs Fruit Farm which draws its produce from a farm near Gettysburg, Pa., and sells it at locations throughout the Washington region said the market has been at the site for about 20 years. Its closure would have threatened the farm's bottom line, he said.
"It was a perfect example of democracy in action," King said of the victory. "The people got together, put down their signatures, did the phone calls and the e-mails, and they got their way."