Christmas lights, referred to by city council as “decorative and holiday lighting,” will be in place on Baker Street by early December, and council is proceeding with a plan to upgrade downtown street lighting in 2019.
City planner Natalie Andrijancic, in a presentation to council on Monday, said the city has hired a consultant to create an overall design for downtown lighting, and that a choice of streetlight designs will be presented to the public on the city website.
She explained that the current 37-year-old Baker St. light standards are reaching their end of life and are difficult to maintain.
The controversial four-way stop at Josephine and Baker in the summer of 2016 was the result of the failure of one of those lamp posts which council said at the time are not replaceable and difficult to re-create.
Andrijancic said the job of the consultant, in addition to creating an overall downtown lighting design, will be to recommend lighting that is cost effective and energy efficient.
“The Downtown Urban Design Strategy,” she said, “recommends that three different styles be selected: heritage style for Baker Street and Ward Street, a transition style for Victoria St. and cross streets, and a contemporary style for Vernon St.”
There will be a selection committee to help choose the streetlights, she said. “It could include members from the Cultural Development Committee, the business community, and Nelson Hydro as well as maybe a member from the public. We are also going to do consultation with the business community and the public.”
Replacing downtown lighting is one of the goals of Nelson’s Downtown Urban Design Strategy which in turn is part of the Downtown Waterfront Master Plan, both launched by the previous city council under then-mayor John Dooley.
The current city council held a number of public input sessions in 2016 and 2017 about the urban design strategy. The project started with the recognition that the century-old water and sewer lines on Baker Street need replacing, and that other design features, such as lighting, could be updated at the same time.
“The stark reality is we are going to have to start digging up our downtown streets in the next few years to replace end-of- life water mains that run down Baker,” Mayor Deb Kozak told the Star in 2016.
The underground infrastructure work will be funded by reserves the city has been setting aside. The above ground work will depend on grants from senior levels of government in addition to the city’s downtown waterfront reserve fund.
Asked by Councillor Valerie Warmington about light pollution, Andrijancic explained that new LED lighting will be “down-cast lighting” that is “dark sky compliant.” City manager Kevin Cormack said the current new lighting on Hall Street is an example.
Andrijancic told the Star that the new lighting will intentionally avoid the light pollution problems created by blue spectrum LED lighting in many cities worldwide in the past decade.
As for Christmas lights, Andrijancic told the Star that the selection committee will meet in August and September to make design decisions. In late September or in early October council will allocate funds for the holiday lighting. If approved, the lights will be ordered and installed in early December.
Finance manager Colin McClure said the cost of the lights is uncertain until the committee does its work but the funds will come from the city’s downtown waterfront reserve fund and from the Spurway fund, a private endowment dedicated to downtown beautification.
The downtown waterfront reserve fund receives $80,000 per year from parking meter revenue — the saving that was created when the provincial government moved back to GST from HST.
“When we were paying HST we had to submit $.13 on each dollar we collected in parking meter revenue to the federal government,” McClure told the Star. “When it changed back to GST we are now remitting $.05 per dollar of parking meter revenue. That resulted in a significant savings to the city and (the previous) council decided to use that savings to create a reserve to fund projects in the downtown and waterfront area. Currently, we are budgeted to transfer $80,ooo each year into this reserve.”