City council member Bob Adams speaks on the issue of Nelson's Baker Street Christmas lights during a heated debate with councillor Paula Kiss.

‘Trees don’t come with electrical outlets’

Christmas light drama erupts during Nelson city council meeting.

The seemingly innocuous, feel-good topic of Christmas lights somehow ended up leading to the most heated debate at city council this evening.

Previously, council had instructed staff to come up with a downtown master plan that would address the lighting issue in years to come. This involves hiring a consultant to advise them on how to proceed and discussing how to incorporate the Christmas lights into a larger mandate for aesthetic development around Baker Street and the surrounding area.

However, since none of that will be completed this year, volunteers are moving ahead with their work thanks to donations from the community and city council’s Spurway Trust Fund.

Councillor Paula Kiss expressed concerns about what exactly that’s going to look like.

“Why are we trying to light trees? Our tree management plan specifically speaks against it,” she said. “Trees don’t come with electrical outlets.”

She said in her recollection council had already agreed to this, so when she heard of new plans to expand the lighting scheme, she was surprised. She said she’s on board with lights on buildings, but said putting lights in trees is a poor idea. She expressed concerns about the scope of this year’s improvements, and whether or not they will be in line with staff recommendations.

Without naming Adams specifically, she said council members shouldn’t be allowed to contravene plans already established by council.

Adams fired back, saying he remembers no such agreement to avoid lighting trees. He said the volunteers involved have worked hard and they have the money available to expand.

“So we can’t do improvements?” he asked.

Despite the controversy, the lighting plan is going ahead. Kiss amended one of the elements of the recommendation.

Council also discussed the four garbage cans currently under consideration for bearproofing in the Nelson area. Council claims the fourth can, located at the top of Stanley Street, belongs to the regional district and should be removed completely.

They are still considering converting the three in Lakeside Park and city manager Kevin Cormack pointed out that bearproof cans already exist in more problematic areas like Gyro Park.

The council also agreed to adopt a social media policy.

“We’ve hit the twenty-first century,” said mayor John Dooley, to scattered laughs. The policy will govern how the city conducts itself on social media.

Council also announced new sustainability awards that will be given out by the city, recounted their progress in addressing homelessness in Nelson and approved a number of bylaws, including a rezoning of five properties on Holland Street.

One of the most unique moments of the night came when councillor Candace Batycki inquired as to why Nelson hasn’t yet acknowledged that it is on unceded First Nations territory, as Vancouver recently did.

“I feel like it’s really interesting and that’s why I’ve been doing research,” she said.

More in-depth coverage to follow shortly.

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