SAUGUS — A man who will transform a vacant lot into a farm stand was turned down on his request to sell Christmas trees because selectmen didn’t want him to take business away from other vendors.
Philip Consolo, owner of Hanover-based Rosa Farms, proposed selling Christmas trees in a 40 by 40-foot area, in addition to fruits, vegetables, gourds, pumpkins, and wreaths in a temporary farm stand structure on the lot at Main Street and 172 Lynn Fells Parkway.
The Saugus native is affiliated with Boston Public Market, a permanent, year-round, self-sustaining market featuring fresh, locally sourced foods. He estimated that tree sales would make up about 50 percent of his business model, but was told by selectmen that he could not sell them.
“My concern is that this is going to hurt an existing Saugus business,” said selectman Mark Mitchell, who made the motion to grant Consolo’s application but prohibit him from selling trees on the property. “Me, personally, I wouldn’t support this with the tree aspect of it.”
Mitchell said many of the organizations that sell trees are nonprofits, including Boy Scout Troop 62 and the Saugus High School football team. All five members ultimately supported his motion.
“To me, I just think we have too many folks in the immediate area selling trees who depend on it and they’re Saugus businesses,” said Mitchell.
Juniper Drive resident Jim Healey argued that Consolo should be given the same opportunity as the existing businesses Mitchell mentioned.
“His idea with the trees, the flowers, the produce, brings some life to that location,” said Healey. “I sit at the light four to five times a day. It used to be a gas station and it has been empty since (it closed). I don’t think his idea brought before you should be diminished in any way. J. Pace sells breakfast and Iron Town (Diner) sells breakfast. It’s not to hurt anybody but to have the opportunity like anybody else.”
Alisa DeSantis, a Natick resident who attended to support Consolo, felt the decision was unfair.
“Even the dollar store sells trees,” she said.
Selectman Jeff Cicolini said he’s not sure that there’s a need for more tree stands in town because several are already available. He also feared the stand would be detrimental to nonprofits who rely on the money they earn selling trees. Cicolini noted that he’s a big supporter of small business and the land needs something to change it from the way it’s sitting now.
Selectman Scott Brazis said he feared that if the business didn’t work without the trees, he wouldn’t come back in the spring to continue working in town.
“I think it’s fair to give somebody a chance,” said Brazis.
In an interview with The Item following Wednesday’s meeting, Consolo said he was disappointed that he wouldn’t be selling trees and feared it could hinder his business plan.
The farm stand will be open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.