UPDATE: Local Harvest Market facing 'no occupancy' notice

The future of the Local Harvest Market was unclear early this week, as Chilliwack city council was faced with a difficult task.

Do they continue to allow the popular food market to run while not in compliance, or issue a no occupancy notice?

Council will make their decision on Tuesday at their next meeting, but whatever the outcome it's yet another step in a years-long discussion between the Harvest Market's owner Dan Oostenbrink and the city.

If they do issue a no occupancy notice, he would have two weeks notice before the no occupancy took effect. That would allow two weeks to either bring the business into compliance, or to close his doors until he addressed all deficiencies in the building.

If Oostenbrink were to continue operating, he would face a fine of $500 per day.

On Monday, Oostenbrink said isn't sure what direction council will go. It's not the first time his business has been discussed in chambers. He admits that "we did make mistakes" in how they grew their business.

But he insists that he's been working diligently to correct those problems.

"We're trying to clean up our act and make things better," he told The Progress on Monday.

He explained a bit of the business' history.

The Local Harvest Market began as a roadside fruit stand to sell off produce from the adjoining farm. That was in 2012, and at the time, everything was in compliance.

They began to grow in popularity, and then in size.

In April 2014, they "first stepped into this building," he said, referring to the now-converted barn that houses a retail store that carries produce grown in the field, locally sourced food products, Anita's Organic Mill products, Magpie Bakery products, and more. It also is home to a small cafe, with its own chef.

By early 2015 their growth, which no longer adhered to the City of Chilliwack's bylaws, and B.C. building codes, according to the city.

That rankled city staff and council, but Oostenbrink was given an extension to bring his business into compliance.

Oostenbrink said that he's been busy with architects submitting new plans for a new building, which will eventually be used on site.

In the meantime, he's hoping to operate the business as it currently stands. He has 15 to 20 employees that rely on their jobs, customers to keep happy, and a farm that needs tending.

"We're not going to stop growing food on this property," he said. "I'm a farmer. I love farming, and most of these other vendors that occupy our space are here because I'm not making an income on this produce solely. These other vendors supplement our income and make this market a reality."

To upgrade the current barn being used would cost "hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said, making it an unrealistic option.

He submitted new plans to the city in December, and believes the new building would meet all criteria for the city, the Agricultural Land Commission, and the fire department.

"We hired an architect, and ever since June we've moved full steam ahead with the design and acquiring the necessary engineering drawings for a building for a new market."

But it seems that may not have been soon enough for city staff, who issued a press release on Friday to advise the public of the upcoming decision.

It read: "City Council is often tasked with the difficult duty of enforcing Provincial legislation and City Bylaws in a fair and equitable manner. On February 2, 2016, Council will consider posting a “No Occupancy” notice on The Local Harvest Market, at 7696 Lickman Road, as the business has not come into compliance with the public safety provisions of the BC Building Code and City Bylaws."

It detailed the ways in which the building is not in compliance. They have also obtained legal advice on the matter.

"The property owner has long been aware of all deficiencies and the steps necessary to come into compliance," the release states. "The continued use of the existing building on the property for commercial and assembly purposes is not permitted under the Building Regulation Bylaw, the Business License Bylaw, and the BC Building Code, posing a public safety concern," the city said in Friday's release.

There are "numerous technical issues" outstanding, relating to the Fire Code, BC Building Code and the Agricultural Commercial Zone.

Staff said they are concerned about the "stability and structural soundness of the building, fire safety, emergency exits and fire separation, insulation and ventilation, mechanical and electrical, as well as sanitary and storm servicing."

The property is currently in contravention of the ALC’s non-farm use approvals, according to the city. The Local Harvest Market's new proposed building is not consistent with the conditions of the decision of the Commission.

The release states that on Tuesday, "Chilliwack Council will enter the meeting with an open mind, carefully reviewing the staff report and history of the file. Key items for consideration will include public safety concerns, liability concerns, and the duty to enforce bylaws and Provincial legislation in a fair and equitable manner."



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