Wellesley council had a change of heart this week, opting to reverse course on a previous decision about waiving the 2019 rental fees for a community group.
A previous council meeting March 19, representatives from the Wellesley North Easthope Agricultural Society approached council with a request to waive the rental fees for the Wellesley park pavilion, home of its farmers’ market. Councillors rejected the full waiver request originally, and opted to consider a 35 per cent reduction at a later date. That later date turned out to be Tuesday night.
Part of what prompted the decision was a document penned in 1962 that allowed the fair board to use the land free of charge for other uses not related to the fair, if the township and fair board mutually agreed.
Coun. Peter van der Maas was one of the councillors who reconsidered in light of several delegations, as well as the land deed from 1962. He also added that it was in line with previous decisions made by the council. One of these previous waivers included $7,500 worth of rental fees for the Paradise and District Lions Club to rent out the St. Clements Community Centre for its annual summer camp.
“I see no reason to stand in the way of waiving the fee for the use of the pavilion,” said van der Maas. “What particularly did it for me, the vendors are still paying a fee. But rather than going to the township, it is going to the agricultural board, which was a partner in establishing the whole facility in the first place.”
The regular rental fee would be $56.10 per week, multiplied by 18 weeks of the Wellesley Farmers’ Market season, for an annual total of $1009.80. The farmers market runs from June 8 to October 12.
Coun. Carl Smit stood firmly by his original stance, stating that it could set a precedent for other groups looking for a waiver.
“I don’t think anything’s changed,” said Smit, referring to the previous request. “I find it very convenient that the market can fall under the umbrella of the fair. It’s just too convenient. All kinds of clubs can now share in this windfall, that everybody gets it for free.”
Coun. Shelley Wagner was also vocal in her opposition, stating that the Township of Wellesley also needs funding and has previously donated to the fair board.
“We have to make money as well, as a township, to keep things running,” said Wagner. “If we keep giving it away for free … well … the fair board says they need money to do things; the township needs money to do things.”
Coun. Herb Neher pointed out that the money would go right back into the community, as the Wellesley North Easthope Agricultural Society intends to use the funds towards the fall fair.
“There shouldn’t be a dollar value every time we do something. We have to make money out of it, [but] this is a community-oriented thing,” said Neher. “All of the money that they get goes back into the community. And sometimes we’ve got to make exceptions. And this is a special case where I think it merits it.”
After much deliberation, the motion was eventually passed with a recorded vote of 3-2.