Lorri McCready, owner of Thor’s Pizza, is one of several business owners near the corner of Victoria and Kootenay Streets who are alarmed at the prospect of a transit hub outside their doors. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Lorri McCready, owner of Thor’s Pizza, is one of several business owners near the corner of Victoria and Kootenay Streets who are alarmed at the prospect of a transit hub outside their doors. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

City, businesses meet about contested transit hub plans for downtown Nelson

Several businesses at the Kootenay-Victoria intersection say they were ‘blindsided’

Thor’s Pizza owner Lorri McCready says she appreciates the fact that the City of Nelson and BC Transit met with her and other business owners online on April 8 about the proposed transit exchange slated for their block.

She just doesn’t think it will change their plans.

“I don’t get the impression that council is very interested at all in putting the brakes on this,” said McCready.

Seven business located around the Victoria-Kootenay intersection and one resident attended the meeting which was facilitated by the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce. Also present were two invited city council members, one resident of the 300 block, two city staff members, and two employees of BC Transit.

All of the businesses were against the location and the design of the proposed transit hub. They had already written letters to council outlining their objections: loss of parking and loading zones, traffic congestion, the city’s decision-making process, perceived lack of consultation with businesses, and a public washroom that they say would end up being a hangout for homeless people.

The city’s chief financial officer Colin McClure told the meeting the project has been in the works for years.

“I’m hearing that some people are feeling that they were not engaged,” he said. “We’ve been engaged with the community for a number of years on this, and we have selected this as a location.”

He said the decision now was simply which of three designs to choose. The details of parking and loading zones could then be negotiated and mitigated, with the help of local businesses.

City council could, however, revisit the entire issue and start over again, if it wishes, McClure added.

A letter and a survey

In December, the city sent a letter to 38 businesses, property owners and residents in the immediate area, inviting them to an online meeting in January to discuss the transit exchange.

Six people attended. At the April 9 meeting, most business owners stated that before the December letter, they had never heard of the transit exchange plans.

“The first we’ve heard of this was in January 2021,” said Debbie Sonnichsen, manager of the Kootenay Medical Centre at 601 Kootenay St. “I just feel blindsided. Due diligence, from our perspective, hasn’t been done.”

In February, the city ran a survey for downtown residents and businesses, asking which of three designs they preferred, and got 145 responses, with an ambiguous result. The response “unsure/none” and two of the proposed designs each got roughly one-third of the votes.

Urban design strategy 2017

In a series of public meetings and workshops held in 2017 that resulted in the city’s Downtown Urban Design Strategy, the need for a transit exchange was identified by the public, and the 300 block was recommended in the final strategy document.

So city planners and BC Transit set to work on draft plans, based on an accepted transit design best practice that always places transit exchanges in downtown locations. Less central locations like Railtown or the mall would be less efficient, more expensive, and less likely to attract riders, they said. The 400 block of Victoria, it was added, is too narrow and would require the construction of retaining walls on the south side to widen it.

McClure said the 300 block has fewer problems than any other location in Nelson’s downtown, including the fact that a significant stretch of that block (including the government building and the library) has no residences, businesses or driveways.

Council meetings and decisions

Following the 2017 urban design meetings, the next public appearance of the transit exchange concept was at council’s Committee of the Whole meeting on June 22, 2020, at which planning staff recommended the 300 block of Victoria as a location, but no decision was made.

At a city council meeting in October, council voted on and passed a resolution “to pursue supporting federal and provincial funding for the construction of transit exchange on Victoria Street, and further that staff begin stakeholder engagement as required to support identifying a preferred transit exchange concept.”

That resolution, the first actual vote on the transit exchange, designates Victoria Street but not the 300 block.

Public consultation is tricky

Chamber executive director Tom Thomson says the process of the transit exchange illustrates the problems inherent in public consultation.

“It is never easy to do public outreach. There are always challenges in how you do it, how much is it going to cost, should you do online surveys, send out letters, knock on doors,” he told the Star after the April 9 meeting.

“When we have done things as a chamber it is more labour intensive, but literally going and knocking on doors works. People appreciate the fact that you are taking the time.”

Every year the City of Nelson does a public presentation of its new budget and publicizes it beforehand, Thomson says.

“Three to five people show up. But 300 will complain later.”

City council is slated to choose a design for the transit exchange at its regular meeting on April 13.

READ MORE:

Transit: Nelson-Salmo bus, more runs to Castlegar in the works

Nelson set to decide design for Victoria Street transit hub

Nelson’s transit hub will move to 300 block Victoria

Nelson developing downtown strategy

Downtown redesign goes public

Missing the Bus: Transit planners trying to fix overcrowding

Missing the bus: Frustrations rise over crowded West Kootenay transit



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is an independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s 1st vaccine-induced blood clot case detected in Interior Health

Interior Health also recorded 52 new cases of COVID-19

Public opposition to a planned road was expressed on posters on the hiking trails above the Nelson cemetery. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Logging company abandons road construction planned near Nelson hiking trails

RDCK, public, and transportation ministry opposed the road

A concept of the new Kaslo Bridge, which is expected to be complete by November. Illustration: Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
Kaslo Bridge to be replaced

Construction on the $6.19-million project begins this month

Stuart Ashley Jones, 56, was at Grand Forks provincial court for sentencing on May 5, 2021. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks man shot by police during massive flood sentenced to house arrest

Stuart Ashley Jones was shot by a Grand Forks Mountie after ramming two police cruisers in May 2018

The provincial government is funding upgrades to campgrounds in the Slocan Valley. File photo
Slocan Valley campgrounds to receive upgrades

New Denver, Slocan and Silverton have been granted $300,000

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Most Read