An exemption request by the White Rock Farmers’ Market to continue to set up for the event before 8 a.m. was partially backed by city staff but ultimately shot down by elected officials this week.
According to market president Sandy VanDeKinder, a 7 a.m. start time for the upcoming summer market – set to open May 24 – is essential for vendors to set up in Miramar Village Plaza prior to customers coming in at 8:30 a.m.
“The main reason is safety for us. It’s almost logistically impossible to get 80 vendors on that site and get their vehicles off in an hour, which is what would have to happen if we weren’t given that exemption,” VanDeKinder explained during a delegation at Monday evening’s council meeting.
She noted that in all the years the market has been running, the organization had yet to receive any noise complaints.
After inquiries were made by council about changing the logistics of the market – including moving a portion of it away from Russell Avenue – VanDeKinder expressed frustration as to why there was an issue to continue to grant the exemption.
“I’m just interested (that) after 14 years of no problems, no noise complaints, why council wouldn’t grant us the start time of 7 a.m.?” she asked.
Mayor Wayne Baldwin countered that there were in fact complaints, and he suggested the market look into moving behind Central Plaza, among other changes.
“I can understand and appreciate the concern of the residents. I wouldn’t want to be woken up for 21 weeks on a Sunday morning at seven,” the mayor said. “I’m not sure why it was allowed in the first place, but we have had complaints in the last couple of years.”
The city’s director of leisure services’ recommended the market begin at 7:30 a.m.
“The city has only received a couple of noise complaints; and the noise complaints, prior to this most recent one, had to do with the amplified music taking place in the amphitheatre,” Eric Stepura told council.
“This is the first time, at least in the two years I’ve been working with the market, that I’ve received a complaint having to do with setup time.”
Stepura noted many city-sanctioned events have been provided the exemption in the past.
“Although we can appreciate the fact that there are 21 weeks the farmers’ market takes place, it is our recommendation that the setup time be (adjusted) to commence no earlier than 7:30 a.m.,” he said, adding that the market could work with the Miramar strata to mitigate noise issues.
Coun. Grant Meyer, however, noted that other events granted the exemption are held annually.
“I have no problem with once-a-year event setup before the noise bylaw, but to have that happen outside your residence almost half the year seems a little excessive. Sundays are peoples’ day off generally; I don’t think 8 a.m. is too late to get going, even if they have to delay their start time to 9:30 a.m.,” Meyer said.
Coun. Bill Lawrence echoed Meyer’s concerns, noting that with months to go before the start of the market, there is enough time to inform vendors and make changes to promotional material.
“I think that the setup of an hour – from 8-9 a.m. – would work, especially if they’ve been working with an hour with the takedown (of the market),” Lawrence said. “Being an individual that has to work with restrictions on my business, I have to make some quick decisions… A getting-used-to-it period of two, three, four months is a luxury other individuals (don’t have).”
Council voted unanimously to move the start time to 8 a.m., with Coun. Dave Chesney recused due to a possible conflict of interest, and Coun. Helen Fathers – who, as the market’s manager, recuses herself from such discussions – absent.
Council asked city staff to further research the closure of Russell Avenue and other potential locations for the market.