The Fort St. John Farmers Market is safe, at least for now.
City Council unanimously carried a motion to approve the Farmers Market lease in the North Peace Arena for two years.
While the rental rate will no longer reflect the $110 per year the Market once enjoyed, it is nowhere near the whopping $3,456 per month that was once proposed.
The rental rate is to be established at $20.08 per hour from May to September 2012, then increase to $30.12 per hours from Sept. 1, 2012, to Dec. 31, 2013.
This is approximately $650 per month.
“This gives us some time to think of a new location,” said Farmers Market President Liz Calder. “I can’t, in my wildest imagination, think of a better place.”
The lease won’t become official until the Farmers Market accepts the terms of the agreement at their Annual General Meeting on March 31.
“I’m sure the membership will accept it,” Calder said.
The city passed a bylaw in January, which outlined a new rental fee structure at the arena. The lobby rental to the Farmers Market was not really considered when passing the new fee structure.
City Council and Farmers Market Executive met last Friday afternoon.
“They truly do not want us there; they don’t think an arena lobby is the place for a Farmers Market,” Calder told the Alaska Highway News. “I don’t know what another place would be.”
City Manager Dianne Hunter’s comments, outlined in the council package, note that money isn’t the only issue with the Farmers Market.
“The lease rates for the Farmers Market have been at the heart of controversy in the community for the past couple of weeks but as this report outlines, the lease rates are not at the heart of the issue regarding the location for the Farmers Market,” Hunter noted. “The central issues are: appropriate use of public facilities; equitable rates for all users; safety of all users in a facility and how to determine the value of “public good” when determining lease rates.”
Another provision in the lease is that the number of tables would be reduced by 12 to 38, unless there’s a major event. In the case of a major event, that number would be reduced further.
“I can’t see there being a big event,” Calder said.
Though the city has not fully committed, there is a pending provincial study of Farmers Markets that will take place.
“Farmers Markets are struggling for survival throughout B.C., some for many of the same reasons we face,” Hunter stated. “Fort St. John and our Farmer Market could show leadership by participating in the study being conducted by the B.C. Association of Farmers Markets.”
“We have agreed to be part of the B.C. study, “ Calder said.
In all of this debate, Hunter noted that the City and the Farmers Market should look at this as a time to explore options for the long-term vision of the market.
“We’re limiting their growth,” Councillor Byron Stewart noted during Monday’s council session.
He noted the lease agreement should be limited to one year.
Councillor Dan Davies said growth was up to the Farmers Market.
“I think it’s good to have the two year possibility just in case there are issues in terms of getting a new location,” Davies said. “If they find a new facility where they can grow and expand, we can meet in the middle.”
Councillor Trevor Bolin agreed.
“I’m in favour of moving this forward,” he said. “Whether there is a provision in the lease that can be cancelled or altered at that one year mark.”
The lease agreement also notes that the city will help the Farmers Market find a new location.
“I kind of wonder if there hadn’t been an outcry whether anything would’ve happened,” Calder said. “I don’t know if the council is truly supportive of our Farmers Market; I’m not convinced.”