Even on the most stifling summer days, a steady stream of customers stops by Shep's Produce. Shepperson wears his vendor's permit prominently clipped to his button-down shirt as he hoists melons, weighs Hanover tomatoes and chats with people as they browse the beans.
The stand's success is exactly why neighbors want it gone, says Mark Pounders, a Westview resident for about two years and the leader of the opposition to Shepperson's stand. A year ago, he says, seven residents who were concerned about the produce stand approached him to ask for help. Pounders is the president of the Westview Civic Association and, he says, has been instrumental in fixing traffic and signage problems in the neighborhood, which comprises about 185 homes.
The seven elderly residents said Shepperson hadn't responded to concerns about noise, debris and people parking near their homes. Now, led by Pounders, they are challenging Shepperson's right to be in their neighborhood.
Pounders says the stand is in violation of city code, which states that vendors cannot sell produce from a trailer but must first unload it into a vending space. He's trying to get Shepperson banished for that reason, but in the meantime, residents are pushing him out themselves. Last week, the space Shepperson usually occupies just off Libbie Avenue was blocked by three cars.
Both Pounders and Shepperson have contacted Manoli Loupassi, 1st District Councilman, who came to the site with a city inspector two weeks ago. Loupassi has received more than 200 e-mails in defense of the stand, Shepperson says. (Both Loupassi and the inspector were on vacation last week and could not be reached for comment.)
What's the solution to the conflict? The stand should be moved to the 17th Street Farmers' Market in Shockoe Bottom, Pounders says.
Shepperson, however, is determined to stay. He's begun collecting supporters' signatures and to date has more than 1,000, he says, flipping through the pages. One thing is certain, Pounders says: "We still have a long way to go to get this resolved."
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