City council has voted to allow the weekly downtown market to partially operate on the 600 block of Baker Street. Photo: Tyler Harper

Downtown market moving back to Baker Street

City council voted to partly relocate the weekly event to the 600 block of Baker

The weekly downtown market will be partially relocated to a block of Baker Street despite opposition from business owners.

Nelson city council voted Monday in favour of the West Kootenay EcoSociety moving its Wednesday market from the 400 block of Hall Street to the 600 block of Baker. The Hall Street Plaza will also continue to be used.

The latest move for the market, which runs June to September, is being considered a one-year pilot project. City staff were also directed to begin a public consultation process meant to determine a permanent location for the market.

Councillor Keith Page acknowledged opposition from some business owners on the 600 block who voiced concern last month about issues including lack of parking, poor access and competition, but he felt strongly about the market being located on the city’s central street.

“Knowing that someone thinks it’s going to have a negative impact on [their business] specifically is difficult,” said Page. “But thinking about the vibrancy of the market for the summer, in my mind, it’s just going to work a lot better on the 600 block.”

The decision represents a change of heart by the city. A previous request in March 2018 to move the market to the 600 block was rejected by council, which agreed with the concerns of business owners.

But after last fall’s municipal election brought in an almost entirely new council, the EcoSociety once again requested the change. Executive director Montana Burgess said in April she thought the open intersection between the plaza and the 400 block of Hall was too dangerous.

This iteration of city council agreed with her.

The motion passed also includes the stipulation that vendors’ tents face Baker Street’s store fronts. Page said he thought the lack of businesses on the west side of Hall’s 400 block ruined a key part of the market’s appeal.

“[It] just cuts down on the dynamic and the diversity and the interactions that can occur there,” said Page.

“Whereas you go up down the 600 block, and while some of the businesses on the far end of that think it will have a negative impact on them, there’s all these opportunities to [have vendors] facing the restaurants and the stores, have the people out on the sidewalk and going from one to the other. I think that does make for a much better market.”

But the market may yet move again.

Council also directed staff to begin a public consultation process to determine a permanent home for the market, which the EcoSociety has run since 2009. It began on the 400 block of Baker, but was moved to Hall Street last year to take advantage of the plaza’s amenities.

Page said he hoped the consultation would find people who advocate for the market in their neighbourhood.

“I think if you cast a wider net you might find a location where there’s a strong base of support in those areas to say you know what, it would work very well here and we can get our neighbours onside for it,” he said.

“It’s the yin to the NIMBY yang. Yes in my backyard, not no in my backyard.”

Council did not address the society’s other request to waive about $7,000 in fees it pays to run the downtown and Cottonwood markets.

Councillor Jesse Woodward, who previously worked as the EcoSociety’s market manager for seven years prior to his election last fall, recused himself from council’s discussion and vote.

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