Megan Squires presented the final draft of the downtown urban design strategy to council last week. The full document is available online at Photo: Will Johnson

Megan Squires presented the final draft of the downtown urban design strategy to council last week. The full document is available online at Photo: Will Johnson

Nelson developing downtown strategy

Head planner Megan Squires presented to council last week

Nelson city planner Megan Squires spent a full hour going through the details of the downtown urban design strategy with city council last week, and there was one major theme repeated: residents lack a basic understanding of what the city is doing and why.

Along with introducing the final draft of the strategy document, Squires detailed all of the feedback the city has gleaned, much of it negative, and summarized the community’s reaction to proposals as wide-ranging as the installation of bike racks and public art to changing traffic patterns and new rules for patios.

The fact is, she told them, there have been no significant streetscape improvements to Baker Street and the downtown core since the early 1980s, and there’s aging infrastructure such as sewer systems underground that the city is obliged to replace — which opens an opportunity for them to piggy-back other projects above ground.

“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,” said Mayor Deb Kozak.

“With our underground infrastructure only being replaced every 80 years, the city has a unique opportunity to make cost-effectiveness changes now. If we miss that window, it closes for a very long time.”

So projects and additions that some residents may see as frivolous — such as traffic-calming sidewalk bulbouts, and new heritage light posts — can be completed cheaper and more easily than they could’ve been otherwise, according to the city. During the presentation, Squires told the council they would have to be more diligent in getting this point across to residents — as much of the feedback she’d been receiving was based on errant or outdated information.

One big myth she hopes to dispel: that this will cost residents money.

Much of the feedback they received from the residents revolved around the financial burden of these projects, but the underground infrastructure work is already covered under their routine maintenance budget while above-ground projects will be primarily paid for with grants from other governments. Squires emphasized that much of the proposed work is completely dependent on these grants.

She went on to emphasize that the downtown urban design strategy is not something developed by this council. It’s been in development over the past 10 years with input from the Chamber of Commerce, the Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership, the Cultural Development Committee and local businesses.

According to a city press release, the stated goal of the document was to “up our game” in the downtown, as there was consensus “from all parties that the downtown was looking a little tired.”

But it’s just the beginning of the planning they have to do.

“The urban design strategy is a guidance document and provides a starting point. Council is excited to continue our community engagement process in setting priorities and refining these concepts into real projects,” Kozak said.

“We can’t do this on our own; we will need the business community to take leadership on some key issues like storefront aesthetics and sandwich boards. We also see the opportunity to try out some of these innovative ideas, like the pedestrian scramble or altering amenity spaces, before fully deciding to adopt these changes.”

Kozak said there will be consultation with the business community on the changes.

There is a long list of outstanding items the council has identified that they hope to address with this strategy, including the following:

• Decorative lighting

• Relocation and upgrade of the bus station

• Lack of a police beat officer

• Parking

• Lack of green space

• Tagging of buildings

• Cycling routes

• Sandwich board policy

• Unenforced bylaws

• Incentive programs for businesses to beautify their buildings

•Disrepair of awnings

And as far as the ongoing controversy around Baker Street transients, panhandling and affordable housing, that’s something that’s top of mind for Kozak.

“We heard the community’s concerns about the social issues in our downtown and we are working side by side with leaders in the social and business sectors to develop a made-in-Nelson solution. This won’t be easy and it will take time, but I’m confident we can find workable solutions.”

The council thanked Squires for all her work over the years, as she is now leaving her position, calling her work on the strategy “invaluable” and wishing her the best of luck in the future.

A copy of the strategy can be found at

Just Posted

Kootenay forests are unusually dry for this time of year. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
On summer’s cusp, Kootenay forests are at record dry levels

Southeast Fire Centre says 4 months of unusually dry weather have had effect on the region’s forests

Fire at the former Alpine Disposal, and now GFL recycling facility, on Hwy 22 South of Trail. Photo taken just before 6 p.m. Monday June 21. Photo: John Piccolo
Update: Industrial fire rages outside Trail on Monday

Photos: The fire is reported to be at the GFL recycling facility

A disc golf basket in Art Gibbon Park. Photo: Tyler Harper
Nelson council OKs permanent disc golf course in Art Gibbon Park

The course started in the spring of 2020 as a pilot project

Trees blown over by a windstorm in forest owned by Anderson Creek Timber. Photo: Anderson Creek Timber
Timber company logging near Nelson raises local concerns

Anderson Creek Timber owns 600 hectares of forest adjacent to the city

Tyre Little waits his turn at an obstacle course during Rosemont Elementary’s bike rodeo on Friday. Photo: Tyler Harper
PHOTOS: Rosemont Elementary gets into gear with bike rodeo

The event featured student-made ramps by Grade 4-5 students

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

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

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Most Read