By David F. Rooney
Expansion of the weekly Farmer’s Market from Grizzly Plaza west along Mackenzie Avenue as far as Second Street was approved by City Council Tuesday but it still might be a year away from becoming a reality.
“We definitely won’t promise anything before next season,” Market President Wendy Mulligan said today. “We’ll need to consult with our members before we decide when to expand.”
News of Council’s approval came as something of a surprise. Mulligan said she had recently received indications that Council would not, at least immediately, approve the association’s request. Certainly, that was the way it appeared things might turn out, judging by the Council agenda. That document contained a recommendation that a decision “be deferred for additional information.”
However, Councillor Chris Johnston asked Council to approve the request. He said a survey of Mackenzie Avenue merchants conducted by the Farmer’s Market Association showed that most had no objection to the expansion.
Mulligan confirmed that today, saying the most notable objection was from established cafes that wanted to keep coffee sellers away from their portion of Mackenzie Avenue.
“The Chamber of Commerce is in favour of it,” Johnston said. “This is a positive thing for the community.”
He also noted that with summer in full swing this is an opportunity to ensure that residents and visitors use the downtown to its maximum capability. But, as Mulligan indicated, the Farmer’s Market may not expand immediately.
Councillor Antoinette Halberstadt suggested that Council direct City staff to survey the merchants but Johnston pointed out that wasn’t necessary. And Chamber Executive Director John Devitt, who attended the meeting to discuss Chamber business, agreed, when asked, saying that “most retailers are in favour of it.”
“There has also been a suggestion that the Farmer’s Market be moved to Sundays,” Devitt said. “It may be that by creating an event on Sundays we’ll keep more visitors in town.”
He noted that many visitors are dismayed by the lack of open restaurants and activities on Sundays. Holding the Farmer’s Market on Sundays could prompt more local businesses to open on Sundays, thereby addressing visitors’ needs.