UPDATED: The Town of New Glasgow has provided The News with some more information to clarify the nature of the responses they received related to the request by the New Glasgow Farmer's Market to hold an event downtown.
New Glasgow Mayor Nancy Dicks said the town sent 60 letters to businesses on Provost and Archimedes Street asking for their opinion on having a temporary closure of a portion of downtown to hold a Market to Mainstreet event. Only those businesses that are open on Saturdays were delivered letters. The town received 10 responses. Of those responses, seven were opposed and three were in favour. None of those formal responses contained profanity.
The profanity that Councillor John Guthro referred to at the Monday night council meeting was in fact from a screenshot from a social media post that had been made by a downtown business owner and had been included along with a letter the town had received from the Farmer's Market which showed some of the negative comments from social media.
NEW GLASGOW, N.S. - After receiving overwhelmingly negative comments from downtown business owners, New Glasgow council has voted to reject a request by the New Glasgow Farmers’ Market to hold an event that would have temporarily closed a portion of one downtown street.
The New Glasgow Farmers’ Market had requested the temporary closure so organizers could transform it into an outdoor restaurant with food that comes from market vendors in an event called Market to Mainstreet. The event would have been a fundraiser for the market.
Kristi Russell, market manager, had organized the same event in 2016, which drew about 160 people and received positive feedback. Russell said she had calls from other towns across Canada and even the City of Vancouver asking about how it had worked and how they could replicate it.
But it turns out other downtown business owners weren’t as enthused, and when letters were sent out asking for their input on holding the event again, the majority were adamantly opposed.
Coun. John Guthro requested the feedback they received not be made public because it would reflect poorly on the business owners who wrote them.
“To be honest with you, it’s quite embarrassing some of the comments,” Guthro said.
One of the concerns expressed in the letters was the fact that it would reduce access to the downtown businesses while the event was happening.
“There’s also the very clear message that many downtown businesses hold a very negative opinion of our farmers market, which I think is probably the most troubling,” said Mayor Nancy Dicks. “To my understanding they don’t understand that the farmers market is part of downtown.”
She said it’s clear there are some issues that need to be mended.
In a split vote, council ultimately decided to listen to the concerns of the businesses that had responded and reject the request.
“I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t take their opinions seriously and vote accordingly,” said Coun. Joe MacDonald.
Coun. Frank Proudfoot suggested the market might be able to hold the event in another location, but town staff said if that were the case, they would need to come back to council if they wanted to use another piece of town property.
Russell said in an interview with The News on Tuesday, Jan. 22 that she was disappointed to learn of council’s decision, but said they will explore other options to make sure that the fundraising event goes ahead in one form or another.
It’s disappointing, though, to not be able to hold it downtown because the location allowed them to make a visual representation of the rural to urban connection, she said.
She said it was also disheartening to hear about an overall negativity towards the farmers’ market by downtown business owners. She believes that there may be misconceptions about the market, including the false assumption that it is an extension of the town. In reality, they pay rent to use the facilities and only have the same access to the town parking lot that neighbours their location as any other downtown business.