Although council has recently requested a presentation from the Lakes Artisan Cooperative about their performance, Burns Lake Mayor Chris Beach says council has not discussed the possibility of increasing their rent.
The village has been renting out the building to the cooperative since 2010, charging $500 per month – which includes electricity, natural gas, water, sewer, garbage, snow removal and landscaping.
During a presentation to council last month, Lakes Artisan Cooperative member Kelly Turford said that any change in expenses could create hardship for the centre.
“Finances are minimal after paying all of our expenses and that leaves us with little operating funds at the end of each month,” she said.
The cooperative currently has eight members and three associates. Each member is required to pay a portion of the rent and expenses that are necessary to maintain the facility.
Members are also responsible for fulfilling a number of hours each month to ensure the centre remains open.
Although associates also pay a portion of the rent and expenses, they are not required to fulfill hours. However, associates are required to pay commission for the work that they sell.
As a cooperative, the Lakes Artisan Centre holds only one business licence. Earlier this year, councillor Kelly Holliday said that perhaps this isn’t fair to other businesses in Burns Lake, adding that the village should consider charging a higher rate for cooperatives’ business licences.
Councillor Michael Riis-Christianson had a different opinion.
“I know from the point of view of talking with some of the artisans that most of them are not making a huge amount of money there, and it gives them an opportunity to make some revenue,” he said. “I do think it’s important to support that.”
Earlier this year, Wayne Brown, owner of Process 4 circle arts Gallery, told council that renting out the Lakes Artisan Centre’s building below market rate harms local competitors such as himself.
Before renting out the building in 2010, the village sought a legal opinion which stated that accepting an offer that is lower than the average commercial rental rates in the community does not cause the village to be in contravention of the Community Charter.
The Lakes Artisan Centre showcases a variety of local artists and artisans, and cooperative members see themselves as ambassadors of the Lakes District.
“Our art gallery and retail store continues to draw visitors from around the world,” said Turford. “The cooperative has greeted visitors from 18 different countries and members enjoy sharing all the wonderful aspects of this community with them.”
The cooperative’s lease agreement with the village for the Lakes Artisan Centre’s building expires Dec. 31, 2017.