Museum’s request sparks debate about uses on land zoned as ‘park’

Is a food truck operation every day in the summer appropriate on parkland?

The society that operates Parksville Museum wants the city to alter its lease agreement and consider zoning changes that would allow it to offer more commercial opportunities on the site.

For starters, society representatives told city council last week they want a quick change to the lease agreement so a food truck could be on site every day in the summer.

Except for a small, treed section, the taxpayer-owned land where the museum sits is zone as parkland, which prohibits most commercial activity. The society comes to council every year and asks for permission to hold its Friday night farmers’ market, which has proven successful. The society also received permission this year to have a food truck on site for the market nights. Both allowances have been under a ‘special occasion’ provision.

“We need to ask for some leeway — untie our hands,” said Carrie Powell-Davidson, a former city councillor recently hired by the museum as program co-ordinator. She also ran unsuccessfully for the Liberal Party in the 2014 federal election.

Coun. Sue Powell wasn’t keen about the idea of expanding commercial activities at the museum.

“A food truck all week? It started out as a Friday market,” said Powell, who added that a food truck “crosses the line.”

Last fall, the mayor and other councillors met with the museum society’s board and stressed the need for the society to look at fundraising opportunities.

Powell-Davidson said the museum rents a room, the old Knox Church and its courtyard, but needs to expand its revenue-generating opportunities.

Coun. Teresa Patterson seemed OK with the food-truck plan.

“I think it goes well with the museum, the urban market, the farming,” she said.

Powell noted the museum society received a $1 million bequeath in recent years.

Society president Peter Kawerau told council the museum is budgeted to have a deficit of $90,000 this year.

“You do have a nest egg,” said Powell. “So I wouldn’t expect you to come to the city to ask for financial support.”

Powell-Davidson said the society is not asking the city for money “and we want to keep it that way.”

There is one small portion of the parkland where the museum is located that is zoned for commercial uses, but it’s not a probably spot for a food truck or any commercial activity.

“It’s all forest,” said Powell-Davidson.

“I’m sure the community wouldn’t want us cutting trees down.”

At the end of the discussion, council passed this motion in a 5-1 vote (Powell was opposed): “that staff prepare a report to amend zoning to allow additional commercial uses in the Craig Heritage Park and examine ways and means to allow for the use of food trucks in the courtyard area of the park.”

It’s unclear how quickly that report will return to council or if it will be split to address the museum’s more pressing request about the changes to the lease allowing a food truck every day this summer.

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