The Sechelt Downtown Business Association (SDBA) has written a letter to Sechelt Council complaining that the Sechelt Farmers’ Market is not cooperating with organizers of the Canada Day Parade regarding traffic flow and parade marshalling during the major annual event.
The letter also expresses a number of other longstanding concerns about the Farmers’ Market that the SDBA says were not addressed before Sechelt Council renewed the Farmers’ Market lease for another three years (until the spring of 2020). Council voted to renew the contract in December.
“The Farmers’ Market is not working with pre-existing longstanding community groups on issues affecting common roadway, with regards to traffic restrictions/impediments and public safety,” says the letter, signed by SDBA Director Cindy Buis.
The Sechelt market, which is in its 24th year of operation, has been in its current location since 2011. It is held on Saturdays from 9am to 2:30pm in the 5800 block of Cowrie Street, requiring closure of the street between Ocean Ave. and Barnacle Street.
According to SDBA Administrator, Matt McLean, District of Sechelt staff met in November with the Farmers’ Market, SDBA, Sechelt Chamber, Writers Festival and Coast Car Club to discuss issues with this street closure, but none of the issues raised at the meeting were brought before Council.
Another meeting held with staff in January also failed to resolve issues, says the SDBA, claiming that key community stakeholders were not invited, including the RCMP, Trail Bay Properties (owners of the mall), St. Hilda’s Church, and residents living in the area of the high school.
Interviewed at the market on June 17, John Byrnes, President of the Sechelt Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market, said he was “disappointed” that the SDBA had chosen to write to Sechelt Council.
Byrnes noted that Canada Day only falls on a Saturday once every seven years, so this is the first year that a conflict with the market has arisen. Although the market isn’t participating in the parade, they did contribute a $200 sponsorship to the event.
“Logistically I don’t see what the issue is,” said Brynes, arguing that the market can stay where it is and the parade can muster on Ocean Ave. The SDBA asked the market to move down Cowrie Street to the block by the cenotaph, but Byrnes says the road there is narrower and there isn’t sufficient room for vendors to set up.
Byrnes also stated: “I take a little offence to them saying we don’t work with other groups.” He noted that the market makes a space available free every week to a different non-profit group.
Regarding renewal of the lease, Byrnes says that the market appeared as a delegation before Sechelt council twice, and stakeholders were invited to those meetings. He also stated that the RCMP were contacted about the street closure and said they had no problem.
Byrnes pointed out that the market’s location on Cowrie Street is outside the boundaries of the downtown Business Improvement Area.
“We believe the market is successful and well attended,” said Byrnes. “I think Council made the right decision.”