Nova Scotia

Cape Breton Farmers’ Market locked out of building in dispute over unpaid property taxes

The Cape Breton Farmers’ Market has been locked out of its building in downtown Sydney, N.S., due to unpaid property taxes.

Manager Pauline Singer said the market has struggled financially since the COVID-19 pandemic, but the landlord does not seem willing to work out a payment plan for the tax arrears.

“We’re not hiding the fact that we owe that money,” Singer told Cape Breton’s Information Morning. “Our priority right now, though, is that all of our vendors’ products are locked inside of that market. A lot of those people rely on that for their sole source of income.”

Singer said under the terms of its lease, the market pays its property taxes to the landlord and owes about $25,000.

She said the exact amount is not clear, but the market has been asking for a full accounting and has not received that.

The market entrance was locked on Tuesday and Singer said she was hoping for a meeting sometime Wednesday to get the issue resolved.

Pauline Singer says the landlord locked out Cape Breton Farmers’ Market vendors on Tuesday in a dispute over unpaid property taxes. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The market’s relationship with the landlord has been “contentious at best,” but the lock-out was a shock, she said.

“We have been, over the last several months, trying to sit down with them and their legal representative to kind of work out a deal, to find out exactly how much we owe in back taxes and as well to set up some kind of repayment plan so that we can clear that debt up.”

Phil Dubinsky, the owner of the building, declined to comment, referring questions to his lawyer, Tony Mozvik of McInnis Cooper.

Mozvik said the market owes about $76,000 in back rent and taxes, which has accumulated over the last couple of years.

“The landlord has tried to work with the farmers’ market,” he said. “Unfortunately, the farmers’ market has not had a viable board for about two years now.”

Mozvik said the board did not have a chair until about three weeks ago and after the market was locked out, the board elected a new chair.

The landlord has the right to keep the contents of the market to cover the back rent, but Dubinsky intends to let the vendors recover their goods, Mozvik said.

Pop-up market planned

Both sides were scheduled to meet Wednesday afternoon.

“The ball’s in their court,” Mozvik said. “They have to put together a plan to the satisfaction of the landlord that they can pay outstanding debts.”

In the meantime, the Pan Cape Breton Food Hub Co-op is hosting a pop-up market on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for farmers’ market vendors.

The co-op connects local food producers with customers and is located on the Trans-Canada Highway at 1415 Highway 105 on Boularderie Island.

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