The farmers’ market at Craig Heritage Park was “an outstanding success” last year and council has given approval for another season, but not without some debate last week.
Parksville and District Historical Society president Peter Kawerau appeared before council to ask for approval to operate the market once again this year on Friday nights from May 22 through October 9, as well as an artisans’ market on Sundays from July 5 to August 30.
Kawerau presented some staggering numbers about visitors to the museum, which he said increased more than 400 per cent to more than 9,000 in 2014, largely due to the market, which featured as many as 37 vendors. Kawerau said membership numbers have tripled, the museum’s income has doubled and new volunteers are on board.
“The museum has stories and memories to share and to do this we need an audience,” said Kawerau.
The market operated in 2014 as a pilot project approved by the previous city council. The debate around the council table last week was about the need for re-zoning of the city-owned property to accommodate this new use regularly. Council could continue to treat the markets as special events, said CAO Fred Manson.
“The more an event occurs the less special it becomes,” said Manson. “But I think you could probably still argue this is still special use.”
“I wouldn’t call this special,” said Coun. Sue Powell. “Maybe one time or two times a year it’s a special event. I think it’s time to look at the re-zoning. Other businesses in this city have to re-zone to get up and running.”
Manson was hesitant to speak about the re-zoning issue in open council. He said the re-zoning process could be tricky because the city would be the owner of the land, the applicant for the re-zoning and the body charged with making a decision about the re-zoning.
Manson also said changing the current park designation would require approval from the electorate, either by referendum or the alternative approval process.
Council passed a motion — Powell was opposed — to allow the markets to go ahead this year, and also passed a motion asking staff to come back to council with a report about the re-zoning process.
In other news from council’s meeting last week:
• The city will write a letter of welcome and support for the Parksville Legion’s Ladies Auxiliary, who will be hosting 300 ladies auxiliary members from throughout the province for a convention May 2-6.
• Council unanimously passed a motion to grant a development permit to the company planning to build an
18-unit apartment complex on the vacant land at McMillan and Morison.
• Council denied a development permit to the Wembley Mall owners for their reconfiguration and facade changes and parking plan after Coun. Mary Beil raised concerns about pedestrian and bicycle access through and around the complex. A new development permit application could be back in council’s hands for a decision in less than two weeks. The denial vote was 5-2, with Coun. Al Greir and Coun. Sue Patterson the only councillors in favour of granting the permit.
• Council received a report from staff reacting to requests from Craig Street merchants for improvements to the downtown shopping area. Major improvements to the street — road work, sidewalks, street lights — are in the city’s long-range budget, but not until 2022. The city will add at least one bench and one garbage can this year, which was way short of the requests put forward by the merchants.
Coun. Sue Powell expressed her opposition to giving Craig Street any special treatment above and beyond what’s in the budget.
“They have to understand they are in a queue with others,” said Powell. “We can’t give everyone the moon. There are other streets in the downtown area that I think take priority. If we are going to spend money on one street as opposed to other streets we are not giving the downtown business association due respect.”
• Council passed motions — one just barely — related to the new mobile food truck concept and the refurbished washroom/changeroom facility in Community Park.
Trollers Fish and Chips of Nanaimo was accepted as one of the two mobile food vendors for the park, at a rent to the city of $1,900/month. The city will advertise for a second vendor after rejecting the only other bid and taking note of comments about the distribution, or lack thereof, of the original call for proposals.
The motion to accept Trollers and advertise for a second vendor passed narrowly, 4-3, with councillors Patterson, Powell and Beil opposed.
“I would prefer to have someone from our community in the park,” said Powell.
“I’m not totally comfortable with this — I’m thinking of the restaurants nearby,” said Beil.