Plea from Fall Fair Society not enough to save condemned building

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Peace River Regional District board did not accept the North Peace Fall Fair society’s plea to continue using the Adeline Kelly building for its intended purpose.

A recommendation to designate the building a storage-only structure was also turned down during Thursday’s board meeting.

The board recognized that finding a way to bring the Adeline Kelly building, an eight-year-old structure created to host exhibitions and gatherings at the annual event, up to code was impractical.

But, due to the society’s advocacy and active participation of area directors working to represent the desires of their constituents, namely Karen Goodings, Director of Electoral Area B (in which the grounds reside), steps will be taken to replace this key element of the fall fair’s home.

The board asked staff to examine the possibility of costing out and conducting a feasibility study on replacing the Adeline Kelly building.

The board was also amenable to helping acquire a large tent for the fair to take place in the upcoming year.

The question asked by the North Peace Fall Fair Society, which purchased and organized the construction of the building in 2014, was not its safety or state of disrepair. Instead, it was a question of permits and the communication of their restrictions— which, according to the society, was not done adequately by the PRRD.

Permits were not initially required for the public building, according to the delegation. Out of an abundance of caution and a proactive spirit, the permit was pursued by the society—and eventually granted—anyways.

“As this is not something that has to be done, we were not aware of all the things within a permit that have to be followed,” Bruce Christensen, president of the society, said. “And no one explained them to us.”

The south-facing side of the Adeline Kelly building.

The fall fairgrounds fall under the regional district’s responsibility for regional parks and recreation and, though the building code is a provincial matter, the society expected more information on permitting to come from the District.

“We thought that with the issuance of the permit, that an explanation of the in’s and out’s of how a permit works, and what is required to satisfy the rules of a permit, would have been explained to us,” Christensen explained. “Nothing was said.”

The Adeline Kelly building is a large pole structure with a cement floor on the fairgrounds north of Fort St. John. Built by a construction company with its cement floor poured by sponsors and volunteers, it holds various exhibitions and gatherings at the North Peace Fall Fair.

The society spent over $100,000 on the structure.

The North Peace Fall Fair society also books the building for different community events like funerals and weddings. 

The permit initially given to the building was an F2 permit, or a medium hazard industrial building permit. This permit does not allow the public gatherings that the building was constructed to house. Public use requires an A2 permit. Currently, the F2 designation is not applicable because the building was not entirely completed under its requirements.

The Adeline Kelly Building at the North Peace Fall Fair grounds north of Fort St. John

“We were very proud of it,” Christensen said. “It is a beautiful building, and has increased the use of the fairgrounds substantially.”

The society never intended the building to be used for only storage or industrial purposes: it was purchased and built under the impression that it was permitted for public occupancy. 

This was the limitation that was not communicated to the society, by either the regional district or the contractors employed to construct the building.

The issue went unnoticed and the building was used as intended until last year. 

Plans to build an extension (including a kitchen, washrooms, and other community hall space) submitted in 2021 raised red flags about the original building’s intention and current use.

An engineering firm brought in by PRRD staff to advise on options for the addition realized and informed the regional district that the building was not up to the code required of it.

The firm also advised that the building could not be brought up to standards for public assembly under the BC Building Code.

The issue was brought up at Thursday’s meeting after the PRRD met with fall fair volunteers in April.

The District chose to table the decision on the exhibit hall to give the society time to bring the building into safety code compliance.

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