COLLEGE TOWNSHIP — The popular Amish Farmers Market that graced Hills Plaza for many years has been operating in the parking lot of the State College Assembly of God church since the beginning of the season. It may have now found a permanent home.
“We have been getting a lot of customers (at the newest location),” said farmer and vendor Steven Wengard. He said the large parking lot and easy access makes the new locale perfect for the market.
A 13-week temporary zoning permit to operate at the church was granted and allows the market to continue until September, but if it is to stay any longer than that, the regulation has to be amended.
The College Township Council discussed the matter during a July 16 meeting and is considering a solution so that the market can have a permanent home at the church on University Drive.
State College Assembly of God Lead Pastor Steve Silliman told the council during the meeting that the market has been a benefit to the area and there has never been an issue with noise, traffic or parking.
“The Amish gentleman and his team are just very mindful and respectful,” said Silliman. “I just feel like we could find a very workable solution. My hope is that we can bring some resolution to this for the community and for you and be able for this to be their long-term home.
“My hope is to create a win for our community and create a win for you by way of a solution to this,” added Silliman.
“It is amazing, he (Wengard) has a following that goes with him, and they are very faithful. And he is offering good products.”
Zoning Officer Mark Gabrovsek said he has heard from more than a dozen community members asking to keep the market at the church.
“To me, it makes perfect sense. That is an ideal location and it works well. It doesn’t seem to be anything intrusive upon the neighborhoods, but the zoning is what the zoning is,” said Gabrovsek.
He suggested a change to the regulation that would allow these types of markets at churches and schools.
Township Manger Adam Brumbaugh told The Centre County Gazette, “Council was in agreement with staff’s recommendation that schools and churches in residential zoning districts should be allowed to accommodate farmers market uses. Those properties are typically larger sites with adequate parking that is not being utilized simultaneously with either church or school functions. This is a change to a township regulation, not a zoning ordinance, and as such, will not need to be reviewed by the Planning Commission. Staff anticipates that council will act on this change in September, in advance of the expiration of the temporary permit that has been issued for the farmers market operation at the State College Assembly of God.”