Island Roots Responds to City Staff

President Larry Whaley responds to Nanaimo city staff concerns around the year round market building proposed for Beban Park. 


Hi Mary


Thank you for providing this opportunity to clear up some misconceptions about our plans for a year round indoor/outdoor farmers market at Beban Park and the chance to begin to move the project forward in an agreeable way. As I said in my brief initial response to your comments we seem to have done a poor job of explaining what we have in mind. Since the most recent Information you had from us is the same information that we presented to Council on May 10/17 and have posted here on our website I am concerned that others may have the same interpretation of our plans as you.  As a result I will be sending a copy of this email to Mayor and Council and posting it online in an effort to provide a clearer understanding.


I will address your comments in the order you raised them.


Your first point - Island Roots should do a Feasibility Study - On January 10, 2017 the Board of the Regional District of Nanaimo agreed to provide Island Roots a $25,000 grant with which to conduct a feasibility study. On February 20 we contracted with Chrysalid Architecture to provide the study and do the necessary architectural work. Work on the study began shortly thereafter. The study can not be completed, however, until we have a clear agreement regarding what we will be permitted to build at the Park and exactly which bit of land we are to build it on. The study continued slowly while we waited for your responses to our queries about a lease. After spending $7500 we decided we can go no further until this matter is dealt with. Work on the study was suspended on June 26. 


To finish up the estimate and feasibility study, we need:

  • Clarification from the city regarding what we will be able to do on the land and the exact land is to be used.
  • Structural Engineer input
  • Civil Engineer Report
  • Feedback from City regarding Landscape / Paving / Parking / Development Cost Charges / etc.
  • Architectural drawings incorporating engineering and planning requirements.
  • Further work by the QS. Estimate right now is very conservative and likely high because of lack of information. 
  • Compile information into report format


Your First Option: Continue to pursue development at Beban Park (or any City Park)


Move to a registered not-for-profit governance model,


I do not understand why this should be necessary. Nevertheless at our meeting (City staff and Island Roots) on June 16/17 we advised you that at the Island Roots Market Co-operative's April 21 AGM the membership voted unanimously to change our Memorandum of Association and Rules to do exactly this. At the same meeting (with you) I advised you that City Council was made aware of this at a Budget and Finance Committee meeting on May 10/17. Documents needed to complete this change have been submitted to the Provincial Registry. In addition, please note Island Roots is working on this project in partnership with The Bowen Road Farmers Market Society which is also a not for profit. 


Scale back the scope of the project to a ‘farmers market’ only**,


It would seem that, because we operate a farmers market and since that is our reason for being, we have mistakenly taken it for granted that others would understand that no matter what it is called a "retail market featuring foods sold directly by farmers to consumers" is what we are all about. Any plans made or action taken in addition to this are intended to support the farmer and other local food producers without whom a farmers market can not survive. Anchor tenants will be local farmers and related local producers who will sell directly to consumers, exactly as stated in the definition you provided. I believe that everything in our plan, including the educational components and anchor tenants will assist farmers in selling their product directly to consumers but please let me know which specific items concern you and I will be happy to discuss them with you.


NOTE: **A farmers' market is defined as a physical retail market featuring foods sold directly by farmers to consumers. Farmers' markets typically consist of booths, tables or stands, outdoors or indoors, where farmers sell fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, prepared foods and beverages and sometimes handmade arts and crafts.


Operate no more than 2 days per week,


Why? Is the building expected to remain vacant for the rest of the week or do you have other plans for it? This could have a significant impact on our ability to meet operating and development cost. NOTE: At a meeting held later the city changed its position on this and suggested we could operate more than two days each week.


Phase facility development over time starting with a covered outdoor space suitable for year round market use.


A covered outdoor space, in my opinion, can never be suitable for year round market use. At best it could extend the summer season one or two weeks at each end. This would not give farmers and value-added food producers the certainty and income they need to expand production, higher workers and assist with providing food security for the Island. In addition it is my view that raising funds for such a short sighted project would be extremely difficult. Hence, the only option here would be for the city to build and operate the market without a Community Partner. 


One option, that might work in this regard, however, is for the City to build a covered outdoor Market space in close proximity to the Centennial Building and to make the Centennial Building available for the winter and summer markets. While this would not be ideal it might be possible for a Community Partner to raise the funds needed to renovate the building into an attractive farmers market that could provide producers with the certainty and support needed to expand to year round food production and consumers with the comfort they need to visit the market in support of local producers during all weather conditions. Both hot and cold weather negatively impact outdoor farmers markets.


For Island Roots or any Community Partner to do this in stages, I believe, it is necessary to start with something that can work. Building just a covered outdoor market would cost less but, in my view, it would not be able to pay its development cost. That leaves phased development (if it is to succeed) beginning with the indoor market. This is something we can certainly consider when talking with the QS. The questions for me are how much would building the outdoor part of the farmers market at a later date add to the overall cost of the project and how effective can the summer market be without an outdoor space?


Your Option 2:


Pursue development anywhere other than a City park


Note: This is not really an option. (see Year Round Market.)


Island Roots thoroughly researched this idea in the two years after our Co-op was registered and before we opened our market at the Pleasant Valley Hall. We can find no way to make it work.




From the City of Nanaimo's Strategic Plan Update (2016-2019)


The City aims to:

through partnerships, develop a poverty reduction strategy focusing on affordable housing, homelessness, food security, children, mental health and addictions.

Projects include: Beban Park Facilities Re-Development/Master Plan


From the Regional District Of Nanaimo's Agricultural Area Plan


Action Item 2.2B

Support a year-round indoor farmers market, possibly at the VIEx grounds.

Leads: City of Nanaimo, BCAFM, Local farmers markets


Supporting: RDN


Priority: High 

Time Frame: Medium - To be completed within 3 to 5 years after adoption (in 2012) of the AAP

Requirements: Moderate to Significant depending on location and management model.

Sources: Vendor fees, grants, RDN, credit unions.


Here is a copy of the email sent by Mary Smith