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Where to park on pizza nights?

Borner Farm Project in Prescott will host 13 pizza nights this summer, every other Friday. The second one of the season will be held 5-8 p.m. May 19, with a variety of pizza choices to choose from. Photo courtesy of the Borner Farm Project and Ginger Pinson of the Pioneer Press

With the Borner Farm Project entering its fourth season of Friday pizza nights, a continuing saga related to a business in a residential area, a lack of parking, and quality pizza has been non-stop for the farm and its neighbors.

On April 18, Borner Farm co-owner Diane Webster sent an email to City Administrator Jayne Brand to be entered into the record for the April 24 Prescott City Council meeting, asking people to support the farm's pizza nights.

In the email Webster said: "Let's fill City Hall one more time to ensure that on May 5th our ovens will be glowing, our kitchen crew will be chopping, and our 2017 season of gathering together will begin."

At the meeting itself, Brand said City Hall was filled will supporters and those who are against the popular pizza nights.

Cases were made to continue business as is and and to shut it down, after neighbors of the Walnut Street property complained of cars lining the streets and congesting surrounding ones as well.

Ultimately, the council decided to renew the farm's special use permit, under the condition that in 60 days, they come to the council with a plan for parking.

The Borner Farm Project opened in 2013. Baard and Diane Webster purchased the property to grow and sell fresh, local produce while providing city residents a common green space.

The farm also offers workshops and classes to people, but Webster said the pizza nights provide the main funding for other projects.

"It's really the only thing that supports the activities at this point," Webster said.

The pizza nights currently operate 5-8 p.m. every other Friday from May to October at the 1266 Walnut St. property, but Webster said trying to expand the pizza nights to every week would be incredibly difficult.

"It's so labor intensive," Webster said. "Even though it facilitates the activities that we do, it would also prevent us from doing those other activities."

Webster said on pizza nights they try to set up an efficient operation with five staff members and four volunteers each night. The pizzas are cooked in as little as 90 seconds due to the brick oven's intense heat.

Yay or nay on pizza night

In June 2016, a petition circulated around the Walnut, Chestnut, and Monroe neighborhoods asking the Prescott City Council to deny the farm's special use permit due to heavy traffic on their streets.

Thirteen people signed the petition, which said the residential area needs to "be returned to the residential neighbor hood and tax payers."

Chestnut Street resident David Finley said the number of people who attend pizza nights don't necessarily spill over to him, but the people on Walnut deal with more issues.

Finley said he has other ways of reaching his house, rather than going past the farm and said the neighbors were concerned about the growth of the pizza nights, since many Prescott residents were telling others about them.

Finley said double parking was common on Walnut; he said he doesn't mind pizza nights or the farm, but just hopes the parking issues will get under control.

Walnut Street residents Nancy and Michael Prochnow signed the petition in 2016 even though the couple loves having the farm in the neighborhood.

Prochnow said the parking issues are "a really tough thing" because she sees farm's value to the community, but wants parking and traffic controlled more.

"As long as they're aware to the issues of parking for safety with kids running in and out, which I know, they're watching," Prochnow said. "I think it's a great event with the pizza nights."

St. Paul resident Patricia Ohmans offered her support to the Borner Farm Project, citing her own campaign to create a 5-acre farm in the middle of a St. Paul neighborhood.

Ohmans said in an email April 18 to Brand that she and Webster were working on getting their projects off the ground at the same time, as Webster offered her help to Ohmans.

"We encouraged one another in our respective projects and were cheered when both were successful," Ohmans said. "Now, I am distressed to hear that the Borner Farm Project is in jeopardy."

Ohmans closed by saying the project "brings health, environmental stewardship and community spirit to Prescott."

Where should I park?

During one pizza night last year, the farm saw a crowd of 177 people from 6-7 p.m.; three more nights drew more than 100 people last summer.

The special use permits allows between 25 and 100 people to be served.

Webster said trying to keep track of people, making pizzas, and providing alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages with a staff of nine people is a difficult thing to do.

At the opening 2017 pizza night May 5, Webster said they had "no cars" on the streets. Webster said they've placed cars on the front lawn of the farm, said they're still considering, but haven't decided on placing cars in the back of the farm, the Joy Lutheran Church parking lot and the baseball park parking lot at the school.

Webster said she's asked customers if the walk is unreasonable, with all saying they don't mind walking.

Webster said neighbors haven't really come to her or the farm to complain about parking issues, rather they've gone to City Hall. Webster hopes that she and farm staff can create a dialogue out of these issues so that future complaints and concerns can be confronted together.

"As far as I know, they don't directly come to me, they go to City Hall," Webster said. "I would like them to come to me. I'd like to have that kind of a friendly neighborhood...I don't want to disrupt anybody or anybody's lifestyle."

The farm will continue to look into their parking issues while trying to take notes on how many people are coming in and out. They still have some time, so while they come up with a plan, stop by for a pizza or two, just mind the one side of the street parking and maybe park by the church instead.

Matthew Lambert

Matthew Lambert joined the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal in December 2016 covering government, school board, and writing features about the community. He is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism. 

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