Nelson city council alleges that the Baker Street development project reflects what citizens and businesses want. I would like to see the evidence.
The primary means for public input for the Baker Street Project would seem to be the survey forms that have been lying around town since last summer. Anyone can fill out one, or even 10, of these forms. Last summer, my neighbour witnessed a tourist being cajoled into filling one out at the Wednesday Market. This is not meaningful public input; survey forms are only legitimate when there is one form for each stakeholder.
As well, input is of little value if people are not given the facts. Last summer, I tried to get a straight answer on the cost of the Baker Street project and, after reading the binder outlining the project, I estimated $18 million. At the recent public information night, I asked two councillors about the cost. One said, “I have no idea,” and the other said, “Between $35 and $40 million.”
At the same meeting, I conversed with a number of Baker Street business owners who said they have had no opportunity for input. Further, they maintained that it is difficult to know when meetings are being held; they only learned about the meeting that day because another business owner went shop to shop and notified them.
Undoubtedly, downtown Nelson needs a facelift, infrastructure upgrades and a good clean up, but how many Nelsonites really want this mega-project? If given the choice, the people of Nelson might want to pay down the municipal debt or consider other ways to spend public money.