Mayor Deb Kozak has been asked to present to upcoming conferences about three city initiatives in which she says the outside world sees Nelson as being “ahead of the curve.”
She and her staff have been invited to make presentations and take part in panel discussions, one on marijuana legislation and another on short term rental housing, at the upcoming Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conference in Vancouver this month.
And Kozak will be travelling to Victoria to address a Canadian Mental Health Association conference about the Nelson Street Culture Collaborative and its activities.
“It is amazing, as a small city, how much we are able to accomplish and how we are gaining the attention of other groups and governments,” Kozak told the Star.
A Canadian Mental Health Association conference in Victoria at the end of November will address mental health and addiction.
Kozak will talk about the Nelson Street Culture Collaborative, a group of 36 people from police, social services, faith, mental health, business, local government, education, health, and public works who have, over the past 18 months, been exploring how Nelson can better understand and support those who rely on the street to survive.
She said she will tell the conference about two of the collaborative’s initiatives: hiring two street outreach workers and offering courses in mental health first aid to businesses, social services workers and the public.
Short term rentals
Kozak said Nelson is “ahead of the curve by dealing with short term rentals (such as Airbnb) as quickly as we have. The rest of the province is interested in the bylaws we are developing to regulate this. There are many communities who have not begun to work on this.”
Over the summer, the city hired an urban planning student, Alex Thumm, who ran a detailed consultation process that has resulted the city amending its business licence, zoning, and off-street parking bylaws and creating a new short term rental business licence. His process included the participation of many short term rental operators.
This work showed short term rentals to be a broad issue affecting parking, business licencing, neighbourhood quality, and the long-term rental housing market.
Kozak will be on a short term rental panel at the UBCM conference with politicians from Radium, Tofino, and Sun Peaks.
Kozak said she and city manager Kevin Cormack will tell the UBCM conference that in anticipation of marijuana legalization, the city has been working with the police, medical marijuana dispensary owners and the community to prepare for it, and updating its bylaws.
“Although it is not legal at this time, we are monitoring the shops that are open,” she said, “and we are working with police to make sure they are operating in a safe space and respectful manner, and we continue to have a rapport with all these owners. It is not that we are turning a blind eye — the police visit them regularly and we are monitoring how it is going.
“We have shut down two of them, and it was because it was obvious they were selling to minors. And there is one case where people would resell the product right outside the door. That is not medical marijuana. And in another one they were smoking on site, and we do not allow that.”
Nelson currently has eight marijuana dispensaries.
The city will also be submitting two resolutions about marijuana to the UBCM. One will ask the federal and provincial governments for a coordinated approach to regulation of marijuana and give municipal governments time and resources to do this when a new federal law is enacted.
The second resolution asks that municipal governments receive a fair share of the revenue from taxation of marijuana sales.
Referring to the marijuana, mental health, and short term rental initiatives, Kozak said, “It is not just council and city staff doing this. Our entire community is aware and involved and they don’t sit back and wait for things to happen. They make them happen.”