Council has unanimously denied the Houston Public Library’s request to move the farmers’ market next to the library.
Every councillor present, except Coun. Tom Stringfellow, voiced their opposition to the request. Coun. Dawn Potvin and Mayor Shane Brienen were absent.
Chief administrative officer Michael Glavin also highlighted that the Houston Public Library Association’s board has not given their approval to this. The association holds the lease to the library.
Coun. Rick Lundrigan argued that since the library board has not approved it, and due to parking concerns, he wants to keep the status quo. Lundrigan added that Fourteenth Street is an important street with the clinic and ambulance service located on it.
“That’s a busy street, and there’s about 12 parking spots in the library,” said Lundrigan. “Like the report says, it’s open on library hours as well, so parking is the main issue.”
Coun. John Siebenga’s argued that moving the market from the highway to beside the library “is going to cut down on traffic … for the farmers’ market.”
Coun. Jonathan Van Barneveld furthered Lundrigan’s argument by saying Fourteenth Street is “one of our more narrow streets in town as well.”
Coun. Tim Anderson said he prefers having the market adjacent to the highway.
“It adds to a certain busyness down there, that I think is kind of intangible,” added Coun. Anderson, who also liked the current market being part of the BC Association of Farmers’ Market.
As part of the Market being part of the BCAFM, Houston Link to Learning receives over $4,000 in food coupons to distribute to low-income residents.
But complicating the library’s request is its lease and District bylaws.
Its current lease, expiring 2018, does not allow them to host a farmers’ market there.
Business Licence Bylaw 776 also disallows farmers’ market outside of its Saturday, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. window. The library wanted to host it on Thursdays between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Houston Link to Learning’s Marian Ells felt pleased.
“We just thought that was something solid for the community that we didn’t want to lose,” said Ells. “We’re really pleased they’re recommending that we stay as part of the BC Association of Farmers’ Market, because we know how important the coupon program is to all of the families in the community.
“I know the library probably feels it’s unfortunate, but we really feel, and a lot of other people we spoke to really felt that the location the market’s in right now is perfect, and moving it from there just doesn’t make sense.”
Library director Toni McKilligan expressed her disappointment and said she will meet with the library’s board on steps forward.
“I think that it just shows a huge lack of vision and I’m really sad to hear it,” she said.
Contradictorily, McKilligan said the board did approve the plan.
“Our board has been planning this for a year,” said McKilligan. “I don’t know why [CAO Glavin] said that.”
McKilligan added that the District received a letter last year from the board.
In a previous interview, McKilligan also stated that the library would start their own food coupon program that would provide even more money to the community than the BCAFM’s coupons could.