The VIEX is exploring a move from Beban Park up the highway to Nanoose Bay.
The Regional District of Nanaimo’s agricultural advisory committee recommended approval for an application to the Agricultural Land Commission that could allow for the Vancouver Island Exhibition to move to Arbutus Meadows Farm.
VIEX is exploring relocation of the August fair to 1515 Island Hwy. E. via a non-farm use application to the ALC, according to an RDN staff report, and the process is necessary because the fair “exceeds the provisions for agri-tourism and gathering for the event,” as per Agricultural Land Reserve rules. It requires approval from both the RDN board and the ALC.
Stephen Kass, VIEX president, told the News Bulletin this year’s fair will still take place at Beban Park, and that the exhibition is just examining options.
“We have enjoyed our stay at Beban Park for many, many years, but we thought we’d take a peek around…” he said. “The last four and a half years, we’ve been broken into quite often, which becomes frustrating and very expensive. We’re constantly repairing our barns and buildings and equipment that gets stolen.”
There were plans for a new agricultural centre at Beban, but construction costs are only increasing and the past two fairs have been affected by COVID-19, said Kass. He said as Nanaimo “urbanizes” and looks at land use at Beban Park, “there’s a huge difference between having a park setting and having a fairground setting, so that’s something we struggle with.”
Robert Bau, manager of Arbutus Meadows, said August tends to be a quiet month in terms of events and said the site could accommodate the fair.
“It’s a site that’s always had agriculture as an activity,” said Bau. “It benefits farming in just about every way. VIEX is an agricultural fair and educates and promotes that. It’s what we do already. We have the facilities already built for that kind of thing. We do large agricultural events already, so it’s just something that would go hand-in-hand with what we already do. It’s just a good fit.”
Greg Keller, RDN acting manager of current planning, said there is a process the application must go through.
“It’s a little bit different than some of our other applications,” said Keller. “This is an application to the Agricultural Land Commission and it just so happens that we’re part of the referral process. The land commission wants an application-specific resolution, so we have a process to go through to provide that.”
The RDN’s agricultural advisory committee unanimously approved the recommendation at its Feb. 15 meeting, and will now forward it to a future RDN electoral area services committee meeting. Following that it will go before the RDN board, and then to the ALC.
Bob Rogers, RDN Nanoose Bay director, said it would be a win-win situation if the fair were to move to his area.
“It’s certainly a good thing for the region and also when you take a look at it in this area, to have that exhibition at Arbutus Meadows is a good idea and I certainly support it,” said Rogers. “And it does bring business to the area and it brings people and gets them to know the area.”
Keller said timelines are in the hands of the commission.
“We’re going to finish our part as quickly as we can, through the board, and then we’ll send it to the [ALC] immediately and then they will have their approval process,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you how long that will take.”
However that process goes, Kass said he is excited for this summer.
“I can’t wait,” said Kass. “I’ve been on the board now for 18 years and the last couple of years, of course, have been really quite challenging … we are really looking forward to the opportunity to get a full-fledged fair going again this year.”