Fort St. John to reduce Farmers Market rent for two years

That's a large decrease from the previously proposed $108 an hour that had Market members and fans worried about its future.

However, Council has also voted to help the Farmers Market find a new, more suitable option after those two years are up. The North Peace Arena is a busy area, and there have been several concerns regarding fire code safety and the number of people possible in the area at any given time.

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. Staff have suggested 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.

This decrease in rent stemmed after a change to how the City charges fees caused the Farmers Market's rent to skyrocket from $110 a year to $3456 a month.  ity staff admitted they didn't realize how the bylaw change would affect some renters, and this decision is an effort to solve that mistake, but also plan ahead for the future. The new rent is based only on the space of the lobby, and not the size of the rink as it was before.

The decision now rests with the Farmers Market, whose membership will have to approve it at their General Meeting.

Council also voted to encourage the Farmers Market to try and take part in a study being conducted by the B.C. Association of Farmers' Markets in which a consultant would work with the Market and the Municipality to figure out what barriers exist and what the best practices will be.

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