HOBE SOUND — A dispute between a farming family and Martin County government officials kept a farmers market closed for 10 months.
But last weekend, the Hobe Sound Fspanrmers Mspanrket threw open its barn doors and welcomed merchants and shoppers back for business.
“The vendors attend a variety of different farmers markets, but it’s nice to have a farmers market on an actual farm,” said Zach Gazza, owner of the Hobe Sound outdoor market, which is open again on Saturdays and Sundays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., on the 126 acres at 1425 Southeast Bridge Road. “We had our old vendors back and our old customers.”
Three years ago, the Gazzas purchased the acreage for their farming business, then later added the Farmers Market under the state designation for agritourism, which allows farmers to generate a secondary source of revenue on their property.
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In early 2021, the Martin County Property Appraiser’s Office, while conducting its annual assessment for property use, concluded new barns built on the property were primarily being used for the farmers market, which wouldn’t qualify as an agricultural use and thus removed the agricultural designation for the 7 acres used for the market.
Gazza said the barns were used primarily for growing hops.
Last summer, Gazza filed a lawsuit against the Property Appraiser’s and Tax Collector offices, as well as the Florida Department of Revenue, on the 2021 decision. He’s asking the court to have the county reassess his property as fully agricultural and for a refund for the excess taxes that were paid.
However, for 2022, the county approved his full property for agricultural use. That allowed Gazza to reopen the market Oct.1.
“It was a great day,” he said, describing it as being akin to a “family reunion” in a Fspancebook post. “We’ve had the support of the people of Hobe Sound and the rest of Martin County.”
The lawsuit, filed June 13 in Martin County, has not had any progress on it in the court system. Both the Property Appraiser and the Tax Collector filed responses in court requesting the complaint be dismissed.