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Kelowna farmers' market could split to two sites

An ill-formed belief parking problems were looming and lack of faith the Kelowna Farmers' and Crafters' Market could rebrand in a new location will prevent downtown foodies from a lazy walk to pick up farm fresh produce any time soon.

Saturday evening, the voting vendors of the Kelowna Farmers' and Crafters' Market—those who have secured a permanent table at the long-time site across from Orchard Park Mall—shot down a bid to move to the former BC Tree Fruits packinghouse on Clement Avenue where developer Gary Tebbutt is building a Granville Island-style bazaar capable of housing the twice-weekly event.

Final results were 58 against the move and 35 for, with 32 who did not take part in the vote. Market president Wolfe Wesle believes the ballot showcases misunderstandings and misrepresentations that plagued the bid to relocate.

"In short, I think it's an emotional reaction based on fear and so on and so forth, rather than a factual argument," Wesle, clearly displeased with the outcome when interviewed Monday morning. "Parking has turned out to be a non-issue, but some people have latched onto it believing there is a problem."

According to Wesle, the new location will have 645 parking spots on site and up to an additional 120 spots on Vaughan Street, in front of the facility, in addition to parking on the surrounding streets. The current location has 10 handicapped spots, but is situated across from Orchard Park Mall and the Central Okanagan School District office, both with plenty of room for vehicles.

Owing to the growing size of the mall, Wesle says it is impossible to secure more than a one year lease in the location, but members nonetheless appear to believe in the longstanding brand their current location offers is worth the risk. The market has been on the site for 18 years.

He fears a disgruntled group may now split off from the current society, leaving Kelowna with two farmers' markets.

"That would be the worst outcome that we would really be hoeing to avoid," he said.

Tebbutt was offering a 15-year fixed rent lease with on-site bathrooms and running water. As the City of Kelowna is in favour of the new location, Wesle said he anticipated things like signage and even marketing support from the developer or local government would have easily been secured.

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