Gibsons resident and long-time restaurateur Art Jones had more than a few words of advice for Gibsons council on Oct. 3. Jones addressed council during the public inquiries portion of the meeting with lengthy prepared remarks.
Jones, who has operated The Waterfront Restaurant for over two decades, expressed his disapproval of several of the property tax exemptions that council had just passed, especially for the Legion, which he described as a “quasi business”, and for vacant properties. He also suggested that organizations receiving exemptions, such as the Gibsons Public Art Gallery, should be required to provide public parking in return for tax exemptions.
(Property tax exemptions are routinely given by municipalities to non-profit organizations. Gibsons granted full or partial tax exemptions to 15 properties, including churches, Christenson Village care facility, the Legion, and the Gibsons Public Market, to an estimated total of $46,000.)
But Jones’ real ire was reserved for the Gibsons Public Market.
“I don’t know where the professional complainers in Gibsons were when the public market was envisioned or proposed,” said Jones. “This was not a project that had any following whatsoever, there was no push to build a public market, just somebody had a dream.”
Jones said the Town should not have used $250,000 from the parks fund to support the market, and opined that the “very fancy building” was not necessary and has only created “another half dozen subsistence jobs.”
“These poor new vendors that are going into this market are just joining the rest of the food industry in Lower Gibsons and going to starve. Almost everybody in Lower Gibsons who owns a business only owns it because they have a pension or a some other form of outside income.”
Jones suggested jokingly that the Town should put the market’s very talented fundraisers to work “raising money for affordable housing, the homeless shelter, preschool facilities, and perhaps a few other worthy causes.”
“They can come and help me in my business,” he joked.
Jones also suggested that live-aboards be encouraged in the marinas as a way of increasing density and stimulating the harbour economy.
Mayor Wayne Rowe thanked Jones for his perspective. “I appreciate the way you presented to us. You’ve been respectful and you’ve been factual, saying this is my opinion, as opposed to what we often get.”