Dole Mansion Farmers Market draws crowds – and ire of some living nearby: ‘Not a good neighbor’

Request for new special use permit from Crystal Lake raises concerns of further expansion

Customers peruse the goods at the farmers market outside the Dole Mansion on Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Crystal Lake.  The farmers market is new to the Dole this year, having never had one there before this month.

Residents near The Dole Mansion in Crystal Lake say events there – particularly the summer Farmers Market – have grown too big and too disruptive for their otherwise quiet neighborhood.

“No matter how important the Dole was to the development of our area, it is now on the verge of decimating the very beautiful residential area it created,” resident Carl Peter wrote in a recent email to city officials.

“The neighborhood has been significantly changed by the big events that the Dole currently runs,” nearby residents Willard Ander and Corey Landry wrote in an October letter to city officials, citing safety, congestion, excessive traffic and unsightly grounds from lawn parking. “[Their] size, frequency and number of weeks per year, particularly the Sunday Retail Market, have created a major problem.”

The matter came before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday evening, which attracted more than 50 people, many of whom spoke out with concerns about the seasonal influx of crowds into to the leafy residential near the lake that shares the city’s name.

The Dole came before plan commissioners as operators seek an amendment to its special use permit that would create a new “community and art center” use for the property. Neighbors worry that would result in even more events at The Dole amid claims it’s already exceeding its allowed uses.

The special use sought by the nonprofit Lakeside Legacy Foundation, which operates The Dole property and its events, would allow the rental of space as a “business incubator” for arts instruction or creation, professional services or a hairdresser or barber shop. The “community and arts center” use also would allow for indoor live music and outdoor events with limits on decibels and times.

The matter won’t be decided before the first outdoor Farmers Market of the season, which is scheduled for May 26. The Planning and Zoning Commission voted to continue the discussion at a meeting June 19. Commissioners requested the foundation to add more specific language in their requests and provide more information on parking and traffic.

The outdoor Farmers Market has been the main subject of concern, with residents who’ve said they were supportive of The Dole in the past citing the market’s recent expansion in scope. The Dole’s website,, touts the event as “so much more” than a farmers market and one of the top events of its kind in the state, with food trucks, live music, kids activities and “bar beverages.”

The open-air market “offers added attractions to appeal to a wider audience,” the website touts.

The city has also received scores of letters in support of The Dole’s request, many touting the contributions the foundation has made to the community, both in direct support and in how it enhances arts and culture.

Crystal Lake Director of Community Development Kathryn Cowlin sent a letter to The Dole on Dec. 29 to remind operators of their allowed uses after receiving complaints from neighbors the foundation was violating its land use approvals. From there, the foundation worked with the city to create a proposal of a text amendment and updated special use permit to allow for expanded uses on its events.

Lakeside Legacy Foundation Board President Jay LeCoque said the Dole is not an event space, since it doesn’t host private events like weddings, baby showers and birthday parties.

“I said we’re not going to be an events house. We’re not,” he said. “It’s an event, but it’s an event that supports the community. I think that’s a big difference.”

The foundation met with neighbors to address concerns about the growing farmers market. This year, the market will have more parking attendants and “20% less” vendors than last year, LeCoque said.

Landry spoke on the behalf of over 25 nearby homeowners against the proposal. Residents support The Dole, but have concerns of the intensity and frequency of their events.

“Every week, twice a week, during the nicest part of the year, we’re bombarded with traffic and cars,” he said.

In 2022, Lakeside Legacy was granted an amendment to its special use permit to allow for “community focused annual events and music venues for Dole Porch Music, Farmers Market, Music under the Trees, and the Listening Room outside music,” according to a city document.

However, the market has grown from 20 vendors to more than 100, and that increase has brought in more than 1,000 cars over the course of four hours every weekend, Landry said.

Deborah Ander-McNamara said there are safety concerns with limited staff and security compared to how many attendees there are. She suggested alternatives of having a smaller market or bus attendees to and from public parking lots in the city.

“We love the Dole. We just don’t think that they’re operating within the scope of their rights and they’re doing it to the detriment of citizens who literally live on their border,” she said. “They’re not a good neighbor.”

Commissioner Kathy Repholz asked to add more specific language in the text amendment to limit the use of events in residential areas so only The Dole qualifies. She suggested adding to only allow nonprofits and historical buildings to host events in residential areas.

Commissioners also requested that The Dole create a parking management plan with the city and provide a traffic study that analyzes traffic during a farmers market.

“I think maybe at this point, this petition is a little premature,” Commissioner Bill Gronow said. “We don’t have enough information, in my opinion, to make a proper recommendation.”

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