After returning from vacation, White Rock Coun. Helen Fathers had more than a few questions about what had gone on at council during her absence.
Fathers – who doubles as the executive director for the White Rock Farmers’ Market, which is held in Miramar Village Plaza – was notified while on vacation last month that city council rescinded the exemption previously approved for the market to begin setup at 7 a.m.
While she notes that she “completely understands” noise complaints, it was the process in which the decision came about that has been a sticking point.
“Honestly, the time is fine, it’s no problem. We’ll change our advertising. The problem is the (lack) of communication and deception that went on,” she said last week.
“In regards to the complaints, this is the bit that I don’t understand. In 2014, the president of the market met twice with the strata in July and August and again in December. Everything was fine, we have it in writing, and we do that every year.”
Something happened between December to January, Father’s noted, but what that was is unclear to the market organizers.
“I don’t understand why the strata wouldn’t contact the market,” she said.
Fathers said she was also confused by Mayor Wayne Baldwin’s comments encouraging relocation of the market to behind Central Plaza and issues with closing Russell Avenue to accommodate the weekly event.
She notes there are no other suitable locations in White Rock, and that the 15-year-old market jumps through “the regulated hoops that the city gives out to us.”
“I’m so acutely aware of trying to do the best we can. Obviously, with the position I’m in, I’m even more anal retentive than other people, because I’m aware there is a target on my back,” she said.
Fathers noted there were red flags around council’s decision to move the market’s set-up to 8 a.m., including the original complaint by strata president Cliff Annable, a former city councillor who ran for office in November.
“Mr. Annable, constantly throughout 2014, was on the market, taking pictures… and on two occasions he emailed me saying ‘look there is garbage on the streets,’ Fathers said. “So at 8:30 at night, because I’m so petrified of the consequences, I get my daughter and my husband, and we go to the market site, I pick up the garbage by hand… I mean, this is the kind of stuff that we have to deal with over the last year.”
She also noted complaints made by Annable would come via his email address as executive director of the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce, making it hard to “know really what capacity he’s complaining in – as a (Miramar) resident or a member of the chamber?”
Annable told Peace Arch News Friday that “most emphatically, my comments about the farmers’ market was made by me solely as director of the Miramar ‘A’ strata council. My comments have nothing to do with the chamber.”
Asked about Annable’s and Baldwin’s earlier comments about residents not wanting to complain because Father is both a councillor and a member of the market’s team, Fathers said it is the complete opposite scenario.
“That’s their opinion, and they’re entitled to it, but it’s not based on any kind of facts,” she said. “I’m there every week, more people have the opportunity to talk to me. It’s hard to do my market job sometimes, because people are here to ask me about things to do with the city.”
Fathers noted that the market’s organizers have received “a lot of emails, a lot of phone calls and a lot of comments and people are putting the dots together.”
“And they’re asking, ‘what’s going on?’ and I don’t know the answer to that,” she said. “Council’s made the decision and I totally respect that, it just means I get to sleep an extra hour on Sunday mornings.
“But it begs the question, was this talked about before the election? In what arena was this discussed?”
Fathers and the market team have no plans to contest council’s decision. She notes that the plan is to “continue to operate and be a good neighbour.”
“We’ve been here for 15 years,” she said. “The market was there long before those towers.”