U.S. Army veteran Ty Braxton delivered an exceptionally impressive presentation to Town Council on September 5 asking for approval of a Special Use Permit to operate a flea market in the former Colonial Downs Off-Track Betting location in Vinton. The facility is located on Vinyard Road across from the Lancerlot Sports Complex.
In his plan, the “We the People Flea Market” would house about 30 permanent indoor vendors who would rent spaces on a monthly basis and 90 to 120 outdoor spots, rented by the day. The indoor businesses would be required to purchase a Vinton Business License and would pay sales tax to the town. Braxton would be responsible for paying taxes on the revenues generated by the outside vendors.
He said that the flea market would “keep Vinton dollars in Vinton” and bring more people to the town from surrounding areas who would visit the nearby restaurants, shops, and the Kroger grocery store.
Braxton emphasized that he intended for the flea market to be a “clean, safe, fun atmosphere for the entire community.” The business would be family-oriented and would include a restaurant, coffee shop, a snack bar, and wi-fi. The entire area, inside and out, would be policed by a security force of off-duty police officers.
The outdoor vendors would be located behind the building, out of sight for the most part from the surrounding area. They would be required to bring their own set-up, which would be removed at the end of each day with the area strictly policed for litter. The outdoor vendors would be selling yard sale type items.
Planned hours of operation would be from 6 a.m. until 3 p.m. to avoid traffic congestion in the busy area of Lake Drive Plaza as much as possible.
Karla Turman from the Vinton Planning and Zoning Department briefed council on the proposal at the opening of the scheduled public hearing, followed by Braxton’s remarks. The Vinton Planning Commission had previously considered the request for the Special Use Permit on August 3 and recommended against granting it.
Issues that faced the Happy’s Flea Market in Roanoke (which is no longer in business) were a factor in the reports generated by Vinton town staff and in the discussions. Staff reports include the crash data in the vicinity of the property and documentation of Roanoke City “Calls for Service” data from Happy’s.
The Economic Development staff stated their belief that the proposed flea market would be an “underutilization of the property and its potential to generate significant local tax revenue” when compared to other potential businesses, that it would not serve as a “catalyst” to development in the area, and would ultimately show little positive revenue gain for the town or gain in local employment.
Frank Stone, from Cornerstone Antiques in downtown Vinton, spoke in favor of the flea market during the public hearing, telling council that each day individuals come to his shop with goods to sell, which he must refuse because they are not antiques, but which would sell at a flea market. He spoke of good experiences he has had at other flea markets and believes the business would be “good for the community.”
Jim Hubbard also spoke in favor of the flea market as a venture which “would attract more people to Vinton” as a tourist destination.
Mayor Brad Grose said that he had received comments from another citizen who lives in the residential area behind the proposed flea market location. That individual was opposed to the plan and suggested that it would have a negative impact on the area, lowering property values and increasing litter.
Council members proceeded to discuss the request by Braxton. Councilwoman Janet Scheid said that while she was impressed by Braxton’s presentation and business plan, she believed there would be a better use for the property. Braxton responded that Henry Brabham, who owns the property, had agreed to a one-year lease for the flea market in case a better offer came along.
Grose also stated that while he supported the idea of a flea market in Vinton, he thought this particular property would be better suited for another type of business and might have a negative impact on surrounding businesses and bring traffic congestion to what is already a busy area.
Vice Mayor Matt Hare said that while he loves small businesses, his observation is that flea markets usually locate in areas which are declining and he would prefer a different type of business to “lift up the community.”
Councilwoman Sabrina McCarty expressed concerns about trash and a nearby stormwater retention pond. (Councilman Keith Liles was not able to attend the September 5 meeting.)
In the end when the vote was taken, all council members voted to deny the Special Use Permit, based on concerns of traffic congestion and safety, increased litter in what has already been a problematic area, and hopes for another business which would be a better fit in the location.