I feel like I’ve written this letter half a dozen times since moving to Nelson 18 years ago. It’s that wretched old “heritage” issue getting under my skin once again.
It’s a fundamental slap in the face to creative expression, free enterprise and the dogged entrepreneurial spirit required to run a small retail business in town when a proprietor is told what colour and style of signs, awnings and other exterior trimmings are acceptable to a power-wielding committee of city-endorsed preservationists.
We already know that people are attracted to our downtown because of its quaintness, diversity and visible history. It’s time to trust local residents and business owners not to spoil that; after all, it would most certainly not be in our best interests.
Let the marketplace determine what is acceptable in our downtown instead of handing it to a select few whose loyalty to “all that once was” far exceeds their ability to see and appreciate a healthy and necessary mix of the past and the present that will, ultimately, become the “heritage” package we leave to future generations. Parts of it may appear ugly to some, but obviously not to everyone or they wouldn’t exist in the first place. Who’s to say one person’s definition of ugly is superior to another’s?
And now this visual censorship has its sights set on sandwich boards again. There couldn’t be a smaller, less permanent and less threatening marketing tool for a local merchant than a colourful sandwich board designed to serve as an on-the-street business card to attract customers and convey, very efficiently, the nature of the business being offered.
I understand the need for safety and sandwich board population control, but to standardize the appearance of these colourful expressions is completely unnecessary and very dull. It is the personality of Nelson’s downtown that makes this community attractive and engaging. Does city council really want to trade character and diversity for homogeneity and banality?
I, for one, find parking meters unsightly — they don’t appear in old photos of Nelson, so I’m not sure that they are even legal, heritagely-speaking. Is anything going to be done about those prolific eyesores?