Nelson city council backed off on some of the proposed changes to the Hall St. project as it approved Phase 1 Monday.
Phase 1 covers the south half of Hall St. between IODE Park and Lake St.
The changes are in response to public comments received at an open house on January 26.
Council decided to change the plan by:
- Scrapping the proposed traffic flow changes to Cedar, High, Park and east Baker Streets.
- Keeping the 300 block Hall Street (the steep hill below Vernon) as a two-way street.
- Removing the plan to shift both lanes of traffic toward the south side of the Vernon and Hall intersection, and discarding the planned stop sign on Hall at Vernon, leaving the stop signs as they are now.
- Putting on hold the proposed new parking on the west end of Baker Street and on three blocks of Victoria Street pending more consultation.
- Increasing the number of planned angled parking spaces on the west side of the 400 block Hall Street.
Council decided that the following features of the plan will go ahead as planned:
- Integrate IODE Park with the 500 block Hall Street
- Create of a plaza on the 500 block Hall Street
- Make the Hall-Baker and Hall-Vernon intersections more pedestrian friendly with pedestrian bulb-outs
- Make the 400 block Hall two-way and switch the angled/parallel parking sides of the street
- Move the entrance to the community complex to a location directly across from the intersection of Lake Street and Hall Street
- Beautify the entire street with lighting, plants, public washrooms, street furnishings, and landscaping.
Mayor Deb Kozak pointed out that about two-thirds of the cost of the project is for necessary upgrades to water, sewer, and electrical utilities along Hall Street and would have had to be done regardless of the beautification aspect of the project.
She said, “One of the biggest public misconceptions is, ‘are my taxes going up?’ No your taxes are not going up. This project will be funded through reserves and grant applications at the federal level.”
Councillor Robin Cherbo said there were still too many problems related to parking and traffic. He disagreed with the inclusion of the bulb-outs at the intersection of Hall and Vernon, intended by the designers to slow down the traffic and make the crossing shorter for pedestrians.
“I have never heard of a pedestrian being run over,” Cherbo said, “and I see very few pedestrians running across the street. As a matter of fact in Nelson it seems they walk slower crossing the street. Most people make it in adequate time.”
Councillor Janice Morrison also expressed opposition to the bulb-outs, saying they are “too aggressive.
Cherbo and Morrison were concerned that the bulb-outs will make it difficult for large westbound trucks to turn right off Vernon onto Hall, and also eastbound from Vernon onto Hall. They said that the bulb-outs, combined with two-way traffic on the 400 block Hall, will make it difficult for a truck to turn right off Vernon to Hall and then immediately turn left into the alley behind the New China restaurant.
Cherbo said the bulb-outs will cause slower traffic and therefore more congestion and exhaust.
Regarding the bulb-outs, councillor Michael Dailly said, “I am really pleased that our downtown is going to shift from a hierarchy where the car has the higher ground and the pedestrian has to run across. The bulb-outs level the playing field.”
He said Vernon St. should be not be a thoroughfare.
“It is a shift,” he said, “and I think people who are used to taking their cars and parking to run to this store and then come out and drive to the next store, are going to be inconvenienced initially and think they are losing something.”
Councillors Valerie Warmington and Anna Purcell agreed with Dailly.
Morrison also expressed concern that amenity areas on Hall St. will be taken over by “shall I use the term vagrants, or people staying a bit too long and are unwelcome.”
Cherbo also said he does not believe even half of the population of the city agrees with the plan, and that there should be a further process to get citywide consensus.
He also said there should be a bike lane on Vernon Street, and Purcell agreed.
The project passed with councillors Cherbo and Morrison voting against it. Councillor Bob Adams was not present at the meeting.
Phase 1 will go out to tender within a few weeks.