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‘It’s like a big family:’ flea market regulars react to proposal to rezone property

Published: Jul. 18, 2021 at 3:16 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - After 20 years, a Sunday tradition may be no more after this year. Today, flea market regulars share their thoughts on the proposed residential development that would do away with the only flea market for miles.

“It’s like a big family,” said vendor Mike Hall. “All the vendors know each other. We all work together. A lot of the vendors depend on this to live.”

For the last 20 years, shoppers have visited the Starway Flea Market to buy and sell a variety of items.

“There could be probably a hundred vendors out here on any Sunday,” said Patrick Barnes, a vendor who says he’s attended the flea market regularly for the last two decades. “All those are making incomes for all their families. The people that come out... there’s probably a thousand people on any Sunday.”

Earlier this month, the planning commission approved a request to change the property’s zoning to allow for residential construction, meaning the flea market’s weekends could be numbered.

“We’re begging and pleading for them to pump the brakes and slow this thing down a little bit because we’re moving too fast,” said Barnes.

Hall says losing Starway would mean vendors may take their business outside of New Hanover County. For some vendors, traveling farther might not be possible, leaving them out of luck.

The applicant for the zoning change says it would open the land up for use as affordable housing, but fans of the flea market say that’s not what Wilmington needs.

“They just continue to build, build, build,” said Hall. “You can hardly get down College Road or Carolina Beach Road with traffic. It’s just an awful situation.”

Officials have clarified that a traffic study would be conducted before any proposed project moves forward.

The fate of the flea market is not yet set in stone as the city council still must take a vote. It’s not on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, so vendors believe their last chance to save the flea market will be August 3.

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