Pressure is mounting on the City of Vernon to ease the cost and complexities around renting arenas, parks, sports fields and parking lots.
The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce is calling on city council to bolster economic development by overhauling the process to rent public facilities.
Between May 29 and June 16, the Chamber surveyed members and non-members about their experiences using a city facility.
“It was clear through the responses that significant issues exist not only around the cost of renting taxpayer-owned facilities but also the level of service regarding communications, contract timelines and the condition of facilities,” said Robin Cardew, Chamber president.
“These facilities are community assets, but they are not efficiently used for tournaments, trade shows, concerts or other events because of the booking process, cost and lack of maintenance in certain venues. This is a missed revenue opportunity for local non-profits and businesses while events not held results in lost revenues for restaurants, hotels and retail. The City of Vernon is reviewing user fees but that is just one aspect of the issue. Improvements are also needed to customer service, processes, and maintenance.”
The Chamber is urging council to establish a task force to review booking fees and customer service levels.
Among the organizations that completed the survey is the Vernon Farmers Market (VFM), which was recently handed a threefold fee increase by the city for use of the Kal Tire Place parking lot.
“Why have fees increased for a vacant parking lot that does not receive any services or support from City of Vernon staff when the VFM is underway. Escalating user fees will negatively impact the non-profit’s ability to operate as vendors depart because higher user costs are passed on to them,” said Cardew.
“Not only will that harm small-scale entrepreneurs in the community, but it will also reduce food security at a time when it is increasingly important. The Vernon Farmers Market is also popular with visitors.”
In April, the Greater Vernon Chamber was preparing for Community Expo at Kal Tire Place North when it was discovered the night before that another event was using the entire north parking lot for the weekend.
“The matter was ultimately resolved, but at no point had we received communication that the parking lot was unavailable for our vendors, or the thousands of residents expected to attend Expo,” said Cardew.
The Chamber has written to Vernon city council and requested that its letter be part of the July 17, 2023 council agenda.