City staff to recommend Farmers Market rent reduction, move

After a new "benefits based" rationale to fees was passed by Council, the rent for the North Peace Arena, where the Market takes place, jumped from $110 a year to $3456 a month, based on a new rate of $108 an hour. In the report, staff admit they erred in not realizing the effect this would have on the Market's rent, as it was based on the size of the rink, and not just the lobby.

The proposed adjusted rent is $20.08 an hour from May to September 2012 and $30.12 an hour from September 1, 2012 to December 31, 2013 – a two year term. That amounts to approximately $640 a month in the summer and $960 after that. There would also be a limit placed on the amount of tables, 38, reduced by 12 during special events.

However, staff suggest that it's time for the Farmers Market to find a new home, for a variety of reasons. First, it is a busy area, with limited space: On any given Saturday, in addition to the Farmers Market's vendors and customers, there can be hockey teams and their fans, the gymnastics club, the Concession operator and City Maintenance staff. The fire department has had concerns about the high volume in the building for years, and has only reluctantly signed on to the Farmers Market's lease. In order to follow the fire code it's also important that all doors and corridors not be blocked in any way, a difficulty with a high number of tables. The lobby is also the evacuation location point for the North Peace Pool and the Gymnastics observation room. The report also notes that some vendors have been reluctant to evacuate the building during fire alarms, not wanting to leave their wares.

As the new lease would be two terms, staff suggest that will be sufficient time to find a more appropriate location for the Farmers Market, suggesting looking at the Legion, Senior Citizen’s Hall, Curling Rink, Totem Mall, school or Northern Light College Gyms or the new "community hall" owned by the Catholic Church.

Staff are also suggesting that the Fort St. John Farmers Market look into taking part in a study being conducted by the B.C. Association of Farmers' Markets. Over two years a consultant would work with the Market and the Municipality to figure out what barriers exist and what the best practices will be.

City Council will vote on the matter at Monday's Council meeting starting at 3:00 p.m. Council will also have the choice to not enter into a lease agreement with the Farmers Market.

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