LETTER: Slow down on Cottonwood Market

From reader David Beringer...

I fully support Councillor Purcell’s call to slow down with implementing the proposed Cottonwood Market changes. The public is not fully aware of and/or behind this $600,000 proposal.

According to the article in Friday’s paper, councillors Adams and Cherbo two of six councillors are also not aware of the proposed changes and location. That alone should indicate that this proposal cannot move forward as is. When one considers how long council often debates small expenditures or by-law changes, surely a $600,000 proposal requires the informed consent of all elected councillors?

The whole Railtown project has involved very little true public input. The original plan was created by an engineering company hired by the city who consulted “by invitation only” stakeholder groups. This plan was then presented in draft form to the public at one or two meetings.

A short “public input” period was provided after the meetings to solicit written input. Council subsequently adopted the draft plan and gave the engineers $30,000 more to move to the next stage of planning before this “public input” period had concluded. I wrote a letter to the paper at the time (March 20th) that was never printed as it was deemed irrelevant since council had already voted to approve the plan as presented.

Effectively soliciting and responding to public input has proven to be very challenging for the City of Nelson. As someone who has been willing to take the time to inform myself and to provide requested input over the last 20-plus years, I can say that there are reasons why so few people do so.

People are willing to participate in, for example, the creation of a community plan. However, when this plan is subsequently seen to be not worth the paper it is printed on, let alone the countless volunteer hours that went into creating it, people become cynical and are less likely to “participate” the next time. Developers, for example Mike Rink and Kootenai Landing, come to town and meet with City staff and council in camera to negotiate variances to our bylaws to enable their proposals. Citizens who nevertheless take the time to participate in “public input” activities are often branded “the usual suspects” if their input does not consist of simply saying, “Wow! Great idea.”

A lot of the Railtown plan appeals to me. The renovated Railway station is fantastic. The improvements to the bridge and Cottonwood Creek are commendable. Concerning is the proposed expenditure of $600,000 to create “shelters” that don’t shelter people and/or Cottonwood market vendors.

Calling them a “park amenity” does not make them acceptable. Past councils wasted money on a “town square gazebo amenity” that has been notoriously underused. For those who don’t know where our “town square” is, it is that concrete structure in the Prestige parking lot, at the end of the airstrip.

David Beringer

Nelson

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