"THE MEETING WAS A FREE-FOR-ALL AND IT WAS DISRESPECTFUL."
KELOWNA – The rift within the Kelowna Crafter’s and Farmer’s Market has resulted in at least one major change within the society that governs it.
At a special meeting Thursday night, president of the Market Society Wolfe Wesle resigned and according to him, a vote to stay on Springfield Road was passed by members.
Wesle was a strong proponent of moving the market downtown to the new Urban Square Market that is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Urban Square’s developer, Gary Tebbutt, has offered the society the use of their back lot at least two days a week at a fixed rate for 15 years, however many vendors felt their voices were ignored when the board voted 9-1 in favour of moving.
Taking over for Wesle is former society vice-president Rachelle Leroux.
“The meeting was a free-for-all and it was disrespectful,” Wesle says. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It got loud and rowdy.”
Wesle says he resigned in the best interests of the market, but it is likely the meeting was called to force him out.
“It’s been simmering for a while,” Wesle says. “The Farmer’s Market as we’ve known it for the last 15 years is gone.”
The 7.5 acre Urban Square development will be built on the corner of Clement Ave. and include a craft brewery, a 36,000 square-metre public market and two four-storey buildings with 100,000 square metres of retail and office space.
Tebbutt says even if the Market Society declines his offer, he'll still accept applications from individual vendors to move.
“If it happens, great, we would welcome them,” Tebbutt says. “They’re in alignment with what we’re going to stand for but if it doesn’t work out, it won’t change our plans either.”
Even though 58 out of 86 members voted Thursday not to move downtown, there could be another option emerging that would complicate things further.
On April 8, the owners of a property across the street on the corner of Springfield and Benvoulin placed a public notice in a local newspaper saying they are interested in “proceeding with the development of a farmers and artisans market” and “will welcome leasing or rental inquiries from artisans, growers and agricultural producers.”
“We announce our intentions at this time because of the controversy concerning the Kelowna Farmers and Crafters Market Society as reported by the local media,” it reads.
The author claims to be close to requesting a final reading with council to rezone the property, meaning it is not currently zoned for such a use.
The notice is attributed to a company called R366 Enterprises Ltd. with an address at #300-2000 Spall Road. That address belongs to Lambert & Paul Construction Ltd.
Calls to the Market Society and R366 Enterprises were not returned.
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