A proposed plan that would return the downtown weekly market to Baker Street is meeting resistance from local business owners.
The West Kootenay EcoSociety asked the city in April for permission to move the Wednesday market from its current location on the 400 block of Hall Street and Hall Street Plaza to the 600 block of Baker as well as the plaza.
The relocation would necessitate closing that part of Baker to traffic.
Linda Randall, who owns the Tickle Trunk Shop at 645 Baker St., told city council Monday night that the proposal took business owners by surprise.
“They were shocked. Some of them are really angry that they are left out of process,” she said.
The weekly market that runs June to September was previously held on the 400 block of Baker before it was moved last year to its current location.
Now the EcoSociety has asked for another move based on safety concerns due to the open intersection at Hall and Baker, as well as what executive director Montana Burgess said in April is a poor visibility location that has led to lowered vendor revenues.
But Randall said a move back to Baker Street will be more costly for business owners.
She presented a list of over 10 businesses on the 600 block that oppose the market for reasons including scarcity of parking, poor access to businesses due to congestion, and food vendors who compete against nearby restaurants.
“It really affects the number of customers coming down to visit the shops,” said Randall. “Lots of people go to the market, but they’re not shopping at the stores.”
It’s not the first time the EcoSociety has requested use of that part of Baker. The previous council rejected a similar plan in March 2018 that would have moved the market to the 600 block. At the time, council not only agreed with business owner concerns but also included issues such as the need to reroute traffic, parking meter revenue loss and inability for handicapped drivers to use designated stalls in front of a pharmacy.
Randall said she was fine with the current location, but thought the market should be relocated to Cottonwood Market if the EcoSociety plans to grow the popular event.
Cottonwood Market hosts a farmers market on Saturday, but has been in construction limbo since its old stalls were torn down in 2015.
“If the city is investing all this money into facilities down there, why don’t they move their market down there where they’re not in conflict with buses or emergency vehicles or traffic or businesses?” Randall asked.
“It’s the perfect set up.”
City councillor Jesse Woodward ran the EcoSociety’s markets for seven years prior to his 2018 election to council. He said he’s concerned by the risk traffic currently presents to the market, but believes the event should stay downtown.
“I think having it on Baker Street during the summer, it’s a focal point for locals and tourists. It’s a really good amplification of everything the Kootenays is about,” said Woodward. “It’s also easily accessible. People can get there, they can shop there, they can support the local crafting and farmer community.
“I think there’s a lot of bonuses to having it right downtown and not some place outside of town or hard to get to.”
It’s not yet clear if council will vote on the issue or if it will be decided on by city staff.
Woodward said he isn’t in a conflict of interest as he no longer works for the EcoSociety, but added he would recuse himself if a council vote was held.
The EcoSociety, which runs the Cottonwood Market, GardenFest and the twice-per-summer MarketFest, also asked council to waive approximately $7,000 in fees to host the events.