On May 1, 2024
State News

Hartland Garden Club told to relocate annual plant sale from Damon Hall

By Curt Peterson — Hartland Garden Club volunteers creating a pollinator planting in front of Damon Hall.

The Hartland Garden Club (HGC) has run an annual plant sale for 25 years in front of Damon Hall, but new town manager John Broker-Campbell notified HGC president Dan Talbot the sale could not take place at Damon Hall on May 18 as planned.

By Curt Peterson

He cited a 1995 town “Vendors Ordinance” clearly prohibiting any entity, for-profit or otherwise, staging a sale on the site.

The situation drips with irony. About a dozen volunteers were working on a pollinator garden planting at the very site where they planned to hold the sale as Talbot delivered the bad news.

“We are just trying to make the town more beautiful,” former HGC board member Carol Stedman told the Mountain Times. “We counted on a 25-year relationship with Hartland that worked well for everyone.”

Local lore says former selectperson Pat Richardson championed the ordinance when it was adopted.

“At the time, there were people parked and selling stuff willy-nilly in that area, and at the curb in front of Damon Hall. Including a fish truck!” Ms. Richardson said. “Cars were parked on both sides with kids and adults darting back and forth, crossing the road between parked vehicles. Too much going on, and too little visibility. It was a safety issue best addressed by prohibiting sales on the front lawn.”

“If I remember, we did say groups could set up on the side lawn, back toward the parking lot—more parking there off the road, and more visibility all around.”

Broker-Campbell said it’s unfortunate that the intention wasn’t written into the ordinance. No one has enforced the prohibition for 25 years.

Timing couldn’t be worse for the Garden Club — for two weeks volunteers have been growing and digging up plants preparing for this, their only fundraiser. 

“We use all the money we raise to finance beautification projects around town,” Stedman said. The average profit from the plant sale is around $1,000.

Broker-Campbell had been approached by the Girl Scouts about selling cookies on the site. He looked for any ordinances related to the subject, and found the Vendors’ Ordinance. The Girl Scouts went away disappointed. “By enforcing the ordinance,” Broker-Campbell said, “I am just doing my job. This isn’t personal.”

Stedman, Talbot and HGC treasurer Pru Merton met with Broker-Campbell on Tuesday to try to salvage the situation. 

Broker-Campbell suggests the area in front of the library might be a suitable location for the plant sale, but Stedman pointed out the Hartland Farmers’ Market left that site because it was unsustainable, and the plant sale would die there, too.

“Moving it to the library would mean death to the plant sale,” Stedman said. “We rely on visibility — people see the plants as they go through the village, and say, oh, yeah I should stop and see what they have. That does not happen at the library!”

Hobbie suggested to the Mountain Times that the plant sale might go forward at Damon Hall this year with the agreement that it is the last time. Stedman said that would be fair, because the HGC had verbal town permission for the May sale in January. Broker-Campbell stuck to his guns, saying, “he could only go by what is in writing”, which is the prohibition.

The meeting ended with an agreement by HGC to pursue two alternate village-center sale sites, and that the town would provide multiple public notices that the sale has been moved from Damon Hall to whatever ultimate destination the club chooses.

The HGC members promised to attend the May 6 Select Board meeting for further discussion with the board members.

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