Farmers’ Market move halted for time being
By Stephanie Stevens
A proposed move for the Invermere Farmers’ Market (IFM) was stopped in its tracks at the regular scheduled meeting of District of Invermere (DOI) council March 12, at least for this year.
The IFM is a partnership between the District of Invermere and the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 71 Windermere District.
The Legion addressed DOI council at the March 11 committee-of-the-whole meeting, citing traffic flow, pedestrian congestion, parking and retail store concerns among their reasoning behind the suggested move from 6th Ave. to the parking lot behind the Bank of Montreal and the block housing the liquor store, The Source and several other businesses (the old Home Hardware block).
An online evaluation form was set up and information about it and the proposed move were mentioned in the January IFM newsletter, with more details in February and March newsletters.
But not all vendors are happy about the move and felt there was not enough effort to reach vendors.
At the March 12 regular meeting, two IFM regular vendors, Jamie Chilibeck of Bluebirds Nights and Sophie Timothy of Sophie’s Original Choice addressed council during public question period, noting they were representing several other concerned vendors who could not attend.
“As a vendor, resident and as someone who has loved coming to Invermere since I was little, I am opposed to moving the market location,” said Chilibeck. “I would love to see this market retain its uniqueness and its vibe and I feel its location plays a role in this.”
Chilibeck said she felt moving the market to the lot would diminish the market’s visibility from the main street area and result in fewer people attending, particularly new visitors.
As for foot traffic congestion, Chilibeck said she did not feel it was as big an issue as the Legion indicates it is.
“I find that this help sales, not hinders them,” she said, adding while people to tend to cluster and “chit chat,” she felt it added to the community vibe of the market.
Chiliback also said she felt moving the market to the parking area, despite freeing up some parking on 6th, would result in reduced parking for visitors and thus fewer visitors.
“We go to a lot of markets when we travel, but if the parking is not there, I don’t go. We already have a parking issue in this town, and that parking lot, the way it is set up, fits a lot and is convenient for vendors who don’t pull their cars in, as well as for visitors. They know there is always a spot in that lot. I know it was mentioned that there would be parking left in the parking lot (if the market moves), but I really don’t think it’s feasible to expect to fit customer parking and the market in that parking lot and not have it be a mess. Do we think that the alleyway will provide enough parking for the visitors and vendors who need parking still?”
She added that the market vendors have finally found a rhythm to set up and take down in the current spot.
As for getting the word out to vendors and asking their thoughts, both Chilibeck and Timothy said not enough was done.
While the newsletter was sent to vendors who provided their email address and information was on the IFM website, a lot of vendors were still taken unawares, and Chilibeck noted that not everyone reads the newsletter.
“If the majority truly is informed and still wants this I would stand by it,” said Chilibeck, “but I definitely feel that this news didn’t get out there. If this is something that this town really wants, it would be nice if we can make this decision as a town. These last couple weeks I have been reaching out and I realize how few people actually even knew about the online poll or that the market was moving.”
Timothy added that the poll, while according to the Legion resulted in most vendors in favour of the move, was not a true reflection as the poll was not only anonymous, it could be taken multiple times by the same person.
“I have asked for years for us to sit down and talk with the Legion, but we have not been given that,” said Timothy. “If the vendors had a voice we would feel better about this, but I feel like it is their way or the highway.”
Councillor Ute Juras said she was feeling conflicted after the discussion with the vendor representatives.
“I thought I knew how I was voting, but I am very concerned about the comments regarding lack of communication and consultation with vendors,” she said. “I don’t necessarily think it is a bad thing to move the market, I do find it quite congested, but regardless of that, I understand the frustration.”
Juras added she did not think there would be any harm in deferring the proposed move until next year after the Legion and vendors had time to have meaningful conversations about it.
“I understand (the Legion) are volunteers and have put time and thought into this, but I don’t think it would be good to rush it. It is basically shoving it down people’s throats. We may find after this summer that most do want to do it (after more communication).”
Coun. Greg Anderson pointed out it was in the IFM newsletter, and so an effort was made to let people know, but that he could also hear the concerns being voiced.
“I feel we should table this until the April meeting,” he said. “I don’t think we should vote to wait a year for the move.”
However Coun. Kayja Becker felt tabling the decision would cause more of an issue.
“Waiting (to decide in April) is going to create even more of a time crunch (for organizing the move for this season). I think if we are going to make a move that is this vital for our vibrant downtown, we are best to wait a year and not rush it more,” she said. “I understand it is tough to make the effort and have it shot down, but it shows they really do need to more due diligence.”
Juras agreed with Becker, adding she would prefer to see “the Legion and the vendors meeting and really trying to figure it out together.
“We are not shooting it down, this is not all for naught. And I get there was a newsletter and some amount of feedback, but for something like this there should have been one on one communication.”
Mayor Al Miller said he was not sure they could not still come to a decision this year.
“I think between now and April 3 there would be time for the Legion and vendors to work together. They would still have two to two-and-a-half months to organize.”
Becker reminded council that the timing was not just about the move.
“This also includes the timing of vendor booths being reserved. There is a lot to this, and I find it a little worrisome to get it done in a fair manner (with a deferral to the April 3 meeting). I want to encourage the Legion to get the word out and start having regular vendor meetings.”
The motion to move the market this year was defeated, while the second portion of the motion, to encourage the Legion to have regular vendor meetings was successful.
Lead image: Jamie Chilibeck of Bluebirds Nights taking part in the Invermere Farmers’ Market. Stephanie Stevens photo