Nanaimo slams door on VIEX barn plans

Master plan of Nanaimo's Beban Park needed before any further development.

The decision to shut the door on the Vancouver Island Exhibition’s plan for a new barn on the Beban Park fairgrounds left the group shocked and disappointed, but not ready to put the issue to pasture.

Nanaimo council voted 5-3 against allowing the VIEX to replace four barns on the grounds with a larger structure complete with washrooms and heat for year-round use.

The recommended motion also called for the city to provide up to $300,000 toward the $1.8-million project, once VIEX had $1.5 million in place.

Coun. Bill Bestwick argued against the recommendation, asking instead for a master plan of Beban Park before any decisions are made.

The last master plan for Beban was completed in the late 1990s.

“City-owned recreational properties are scarce and this is the last major undeveloped parcel of land at Beban Park,” he said. “It doesn’t mean I don’t support the VIEX, but when we start to think about what we’d like to see in our recreational inventory, it’s important to have public consultation on what are our needs.”

Lynn Haley, VIEX president, said she thought the recommendation going to council was just a formality.

“We were all prepared Tuesday to start a game plan to start fundraising for the new building,” she said. “Our vision is to have that area to become an agricultural centre.”

Exhibition representatives plan to meet with city staff Monday (Feb. 13.)

“We’ll take a couple of steps back, see where we’re going to go and then continue to pursue this,” said Haley. “We still believe where we are is the best location for the fair. Our hope is to have the new building for the 120th anniversary of the fair in 2014.”

Council passed a motion for staff to prepare a report on a master plan for Beban Park, but Mayor John Ruttan first wants to see consensus from council on the direction it wants to take.

“If they spend thousands and thousands of dollars on a report and council still says they don’t like it, then we really haven’t accomplished much,” he said. “I’d rather to see if there is a means to come up with some kind of an idea and then develop a business plan around it.”

This year’s exhibition takes place Aug. 17-19 at Beban Park. For more infomation, please go to www.viex.ca.