Sechelt council has approved a new five-year agreement with the Sechelt Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market.
The new agreement will allow the organization to continue using a section of Cowrie Street every Saturday during the 26-week market season, but at a much higher fee.
The previous agreement set a fee of $1, but a staff report presented to council on Sept. 4 recommended increasing the fee to $2,500 per year.
“The District of Sechelt provides staff support, placing signs and barricades, of approximately three hours per week. This is a total of approximately 78 staff hours per year… It is suggested that amount could be increased to offset the district’s staffing costs,” the report said. “While the market is a non-profit society, some of the vendors are for-profit ventures. In fairness to brick and mortar businesses that pay property taxes, this increase provides some equity with other businesses while still supporting an enterprise that brings vibrancy and shoppers downtown.”
Councillors were supportive of keeping the location, despite some concerns that have been raised about having a major street blocked off.
“I think having the farmers’ market in the current location is a great asset to this community. I think it supports our local downtown businesses, and I’m in favour of moving this forward for another five years,” said Coun. Janice Kuester.
Councillors were not unanimous, however, on the question of an increased fee.
Coun. Matt McLean argued that continuing to let the market operate for a dollar a year would be a positive economic development investment. “They support arts and culture in our community, they are making a feasible business out of arts. They’re economic development – we saw the Holy Crap example, the Sunshine Coast Salt Company and other examples come out of the farmers’ market, but it’s also these little guys that are making a living… That’s what we need to be promoting and that’s what I want to put our money into.”
Mayor Darnelda Siegers agreed with the view put forward in the staff report. “We have a lot of businesses downtown… They are paying taxes, property taxes, fees to rent, etc., for their bricks and mortar store,” she said. “If we do this [renewal] at $2,500 it’s actually a message to the business community that we do see this as a business as well and it recognizes some of the contribution that we as a district provide to them.”
The Sechelt Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market is run by a non-profit society, and the society’s board estimates that since moving to the Cowrie Street location nine years ago it has contributed more than $100,000 directly to the community through fundraising, participation in the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program, helping with Canada Day events, an annual bursary for Chatelech Secordary graduates, and other activities.