Indoor markets and craft fairs illegal in Gabriola Institutional zones

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, May 8 2018

It turns out, running an indoor market - even a craft fair - on institutional property on Gabriola is in contravention of the Gabriola Land Use Bylaw.

That’s what the Gabriola Agi Association found out when a complaint was registered against them in 2016.

It should be noted, the Gabriola Farmers’ Market will be running as it always does, starting with the Saturday of May Long Weekend (May 19) and continuing every Saturday until Thanksgiving (Oct 6).

This past week, representatives of the Agi Association requested that the Gabriola Local Trust Committee (LTC) make changes to the Land Use Bylaw to expand what is allowed on properties zoned Institutional (IN), which are meant primarily as public assembly or recreation location, but not operated on a commercial basis for profit.

IN1, IN2 and IN3 all allow for limited public market as an accessory use.

Limited public market means an open-air market (outdoors) which allows for the sale of goods and crafts for a maximum of two days a week, between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

A permanent structure cannot be constructed for the sole purpose of a limited public market.

Those zonings do not allow for any retail sales of any kind beyond what is allowed in a limited public market.

Christine Bletcher with the Agi Association Co-op said the complaint came after the Agi Association had hosted a pop-up vendor who has used the Agi Hall for a number of years.

That generated a bylaw enforcement file, which so far has only impacted the Agi Hall.

But as Bletcher pointed out, and Trust staff confirmed, technically there should be no sales of any kind in institutionally-zoned buildings on Gabriola - such as the Community Hall, the Gabriola Arts and Heritage Centre, the Rollo Seniors’ Centre or the Elementary School.

The Gabriola Island Recycling Organization has an exception which allows for the sale of used items.

Trustees asked staff if that meant all the craft fairs which happen around Christmas were also in violation of the bylaws.

Staff said there are infrequent indoor sales occurring in the IN1 zone (at the school, community hall, Agi Hall etc.) that do not meet the definition of “limited public market.” 

The complaint was about the Agi Hall use, so bylaw enforcement followed up on that particular case.

That brought to light the broader issue of the need to review the regulations to determine if the definition is still relevant to how these properties are used in the community and to what extent these types of retail sales can/should occur on non-commercial zoned lands.

Staff said it would require a broader project scope than a basic housekeeping amendment saying that “when this was drafted in the 90s, there was a reason and justification for that. There was intent for what those markets could do. [It may or may not] still be relevant in 2018. But it is not a housekeeping item.”

Trustees have asked staff to come to the next LTC meeting with the intent of putting the issue on the projects list - though not as one of the top priorities - and to craft a standing resolution to ask bylaw enforcement to hold off on enforcing the non-compliance until the LTC has had a chance to address the issue.

Warren Dingman is the bylaw enforcement officer dealing with the file for the Islands Trust.

Asked if this was an issue that other islands were dealing with, Dingman said, “The limited public market definition and use appears to be unique to Gabriola and its LUB. You can access any of the many LUBs for the Local Trust Areas online, and check yourself, but I doubt you’ll find reference to it. 

“And retail sales are not usually included in institutional zones in any of our LUBs. There is usually a clear intent to setup commercial, industrial and institutional zones, with no overlap. I have not dealt with another instance like this on any other island. 

“A common issue to deal with is whether or not retail sales can occur on residential properties, or on the side of the road, like food trucks or food stands.”