Traffic raises a lot of dust on the unpaved 1200 block of Cherry Street in Nelson.
“Between April and September, waves of dust,” says resident Rylan Kewan, one of the originators of an online petition asking the city to pave the section of Cherry Street with the switchback leading up to the Mountain Station parking lot. It has more than 400 signatures
Because that section of the street has never been paved, a city bylaw says residents will have to pay 35 per cent of the cost themselves.
The city paving budget (which comes from parking meter revenue, not property taxes) will pay for paving upgrades, but not new paving, according to public works director Colin Innes, who estimates the full cost of paving at about $100,000.
Lawrence Kosiancic, who has lived on the 1200 block since it was farmland in the 1950s, doesn’t like the dust either.
“It’s a health problem,” he told the Star. “It dirties our house. I can put up with a rough road and all that, but it is the dust.”
The unpaved, steep street also creates hazardous road conditions for cyclists and pedestrians after rainstorms, Kewen says, including washboarding and washouts with gravel running down Cherry, then turning left down Observatory Street.
Kewen, who has owned a house on the block since 2000, estimates that traffic up Cherry Street past his house has doubled in the past five years with the increasing popularity of the rail trail and biking trails as well as increasing residential development up Mountain Station Road.
“On April 22, over the course of five hours, I counted 120-plus vehicles and 60 pedestrians and cyclists,” he said.
He points out that some of those are city vehicles headed to municipal water and hydro facilities in the Mountain Station area outside the city.
The history of Cherry Street residents lobbying for pavement spans decades.
After the city extended its boundary to include the area in 1961, says Kosiancic, residents were told they would be eligible for water, sewer and paving.
“They put the sewer and water in,” he says. “So then we went down to ask about the paving and they said, ‘Yeah your street is coming up, we are going to get it done.’
“Then later on the council decided not do it anymore, and said they were going to charge people for it.”
He’s referring to the introduction of the city’s Local Improvement Charges Bylaw in 1987.
The bylaw is based on a provision of the Community Charter, a piece of provincial legislation that governs municipalities.
The bylaw states that 35 per cent of the cost of a local improvement (not just paving but it could be street lighting or any other amenity that did not previously exist) should be paid by the people directly affected by it. In the case of paving, the cost would be borne by the owners of the properties abutting the street in question.
The cost would be charged to their tax bill over an amortization period.
There are only three properties on the 1200 block Cherry Street but Kewen says the concern about the street is more widespread and includes many residents of Observatory Street and Mountain Station.
He says the street is a through street to specific destinations – the rail trail parking lot, residences in Mountain Station, and the city’s water reservoir – not just a residential block. Many people in Nelson use Cherry Street access to Mountain Station, so he asks why the cost should be borne by three residents who themselves never drive up there.
The parking lot can be accessed from Gore Street, which is paved. Kewen says he doesn’t know how well-used that route is, but its existence doesn’t negate his problem. Besides, he says, residents of Mountain Station are more likely to choose the Cherry Street route because their group mailbox is across Cherry Street from his house.
Mayor John Dooley did not respond to the Star’s request for comment. City management staff did not respond to a request for examples of other projects in the city that have been paid for through this bylaw.
But in an extensive comment thread on the Nelson Cycling Club Facebook page, councillor Keith Page suggested two weeks ago that residents should start the paperwork for the local improvement process and then negotiate with the city the range of residents who should share the cost, whether it be several blocks or the whole of Nelson. He also suggested the discussion should include the possibility of a contribution from the RDCK.
Kewen said Page’s comments were the first time he or his neighbours had ever heard of the Local Improvement Charges Bylaw despite their several attempts over the years to discuss paving with the city.