Railtown planning group gets down to business

A stakeholder group will have a plan for Railtown by September.

  • Jan. 15, 2016 11:00 a.m.

The Railtown district runs from the CPR station to Cottonwood Falls. A stakeholder group will create a new plan for the area over the spring and summer.

A group of 23 local residents will develop a plan for the Railtown area over the next few months, with the help of a planning consultant and the public.

The Railtown Stakeholder Team met for the first time on Jan. 7.

“It was a really great working group that came together,” said group member Stephanie Fischer. “The consultants did a really good job in finding out what we want, what is working in Railtown, what is not, and how do we get to an improved concept for Railtown.”

Fischer represents the city’s cultural development committee and its heritage working group. She is also a trained architect. Other members of the group and their affiliations are listed at bottom.

Pam Mierau, the city’s head planner,  told the Star she assembled the group by invitation in order to create a cross-section of the community, but a few members called her and asked to be included. She said she intends to add youth representatives to the group.

The plan has to be complete by September to quality for a $25,000 grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which is half the total planning project cost.

The next step, slated for Feb. 24 and 25, is a two-day design workshop — also called a design charrette — for the stakeholder group and design team. They will come up with a preliminary design for the area. The results will be presented at an open house on the evening of Feb. 25, when there will be opportunities for input.

Then the stakeholder group will take that input back to the drawing board and work toward a draft neighbourhood plan, including detailed policy, design and implementation components. That will be presented at a second public open house in the spring, before the final plan is presented for city council adoption.

In addition to the two public meetings, you can learn about the project and comment online on the project’s new website at nelsonrailtown.com.

Mierau (pictured above with Mayor Deb Kozak, photo courtesy of the City of Nelson) thinks the planning period — from now to September — is not too long and not too short.

“I like the pace it is moving at. There is sufficient time to do it in a comprehensive way without dragging it out. Sometimes if you have more time it goes on and on and the participants get tired.”

A city press release is enthusiastic about the potential for Railtown:

“Bordered by Highway 3A, Cottonwood Falls, Government Rd. and the CP rail tracks running parallel to the West Arm waterfront, the Railtown planning process is exploring a mix of light industrial, commercial and residential development — all tied together in a walkable, vibrant and unique public neighbourhood.

“Based on a 10-year outlook, Railtown could create as many as 100 new jobs and see up to 11 acres of light industrial development, 100 residential units and 20,000 square feet of retail space — space that can be added without negatively impacting the vital downtown business sector.”

“The majority of development in Railtown will be market driven,” Mayor Deb Kozak says in the press release, “and funded by private sector property owners and builders. There will also be potential for strategic public investments too.”

Tom Thomson, executive director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce and the main driver behind the CPR station renovation, also attended the inaugural meeting of the stakeholder group.

“I have been to many planning meetings in the past and this very well done,” he told the Star. “The consultants came with a Nelson perspective, prepared to listen to what Nelson people had to say. It was a good start to a long term vision.”

Mierau said the first design charrette will include plans for Cottonwood Market.

“Having a market there is a given,” she said. “The current market is a barrier to Cottonwood Falls Park and we need more accessibility into the park. The market may be pushed over toward the bank and will open up into the park.”

But she said that is a preliminary idea, and that the public may have other ideas.

Railtown stakeholders

The members of the stakeholder group are:

  • Mayor Deb Kozak
  • City councillor Michael Dailly
  • City councillor Bob Adams
  • City councillor Anna Purcell
  • Pam Mierau, City of Nelson manager of development services
  • Megan Squires, City of Nelson planner
  • Joaquin Karakas, Modus Planning and Design (the Vancouver-based design consulting company)
  • JP Raulot-Lapointe, Modus Planning and Design
  • Lukas Armstrong, architect
  • Stephanie Fischer, cultural and heritage
  • Karen Bennett, Railtown business owner
  • David Elliott, Railtown landowner
  • Steven Kaup, architect
  • Matthew Stanley, architect
  • Jessie Woodward, West Kootenay EcoSociety
  • Marc Brillon, developer
  • Patrick Davis, developer
  • John Knox, Nelson Business Association
  • Alan Thomson, engineer and Cottonwood Creek restoration
  • Richard Green, Rod and Gun Club
  • Tony Maglio, Railtown business owner and landowner
  • Chris Chart, Railtown business owner
  • Birgit Chart, Railtown business owner
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