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Opinions Differ on SE Raleigh Flea Market's Image

A flea market in southeast Raleigh is drawing the ire of both city planners and community activists.

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Every weekend, more than 15,000 people pack Watson's Flea Market at 1436 Rock Quarry Road. Some city planners are not pleased with the area's appearance, however.

Once a chicken poultry plant, there is now talk of turning the flea market site into a new football stadium.

“I think we have to make changes. I don't think we can continue the way we are," Raleigh City Councilman James West said. "I'm not against commerce, but we need the right kind of commerce in the area.”

Wake County has cited food-cart vendors on the property for operating without a permit. City inspectors have cited and fined Watson's Flea Market for several violations in the last several months.

On Tuesday, a fire inspector walked away with extension cords. A recent report stated they were used as permanent wiring.

The City Council has given the flea market's owner, Woody Simmons, a warning to clean up the operation or risk being shut down.

The city also fined the flea market for trash on the site. Simmons said he has gone into the woods, taken out the trash and plans to get rid of it.

Community activists are concerned that the poor conditions are the impression people get of the entire southeast Raleigh community.

“This is the gateway to southeast Raleigh, so we have to manage this area very well because this is the first perception people have of our community,” said Brad Thompson, co-chairman of the Southeast Raleigh Assembly.

“There's a lot of nitpicking going on,” Simmons said.

Simmons said he is working on the electrical issues, has hired off-duty police officers to direct traffic and is making needed repairs. Still, he believes the flea market is being unfairly targeted.

“I agree it's not pretty, but it's been here for 28 years. It's a flea market. I'm sorry we are on the main road,” he said.

Simmons said the place is just old.

“We can’t change. This is a flea market. If it was a shopping center, it would be different, but it’s not,” Simmons said.

The city said it needs a new look to continue to operate.

“The community perceives this as a nuisance,” West said.


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