Mayor reflects on 2017

Deb Kozak looks at 2017 highlights, optimistic about 2018

2017 was Canada’s 150th birthday and the 120th birthday for the City of Nelson. 2017 also marked the countdown as the last year of the term for this council. Elections will take place in October 2018, making our city motto “Forge Ahead” even more meaningful.

It’s an exciting time as Nelson has seen strong growth in the past year. More young people want to raise their families here, grandparents are following their grandkids to Nelson and new business entrepreneurs are appearing.

With increased popularity comes challenges. Affordable housing continues to be a high priority in our community. The city continues to make progress and Nelson is seen as a leader in moving forward with projects and initiatives to create homes that will keep our population diverse.

The city supported Nelson CARES in the Room to Live campaign with another $15,000 donation that will assist in finishing this project. CARES will also renew and build new housing at their Lakeside Avenue location. We are anticipating at least two more housing developments in the new year. The city has provided support to non-profits and developers and is working with Small Housing B.C. and the Columbia Basin Trust to do more.

In addition to a further reduction to water and sewer costs for secondary suites we have moved ahead on laneway housing projects.

Nelson passed and is enforcing one of the earliest bylaws in the country to limit short term rentals to preserve long term rentals. The most critical area at this time is to develop housing for seniors and people with modest incomes.

Development services had an incredibly busy year that included permits for 56 new housing units, the rollout of the Urban Design Strategy, and the completion of bylaws that will shape the redevelopment of Railtown. They will also be tackling a new recreational cannabis bylaw and a new parking strategy. You will soon be invited to participate in community engagement processes on both of these issues.

Last year public works assessed the current state of our streets and presented a plan that will avert more expensive infrastructure replacement later. As a result, council doubled the road resurfacing budget to meet infrastructure needs, without impacting taxation. Council has also created a million dollar dedicated facility renewal fund, again with no taxation impact.

Government grants have made it possible for council to complete the Hall Street project, which provides flood mitigation on Hall and Front streets along with another park and access to the waterfront. Like phase 1, all this will be achieved with no increase in taxation.

Consistent long-term access to clean water is a main priority for council. The infrastructure work that began 12 years ago has served us well. No galvanized pipe remains and a total of 22 km of water pipe has been replaced.

That is remarkable. This, combined with residents responding beautifully to calls for better water conservation has reduced our consumption by over 50 per cent from what it was 20 years ago. We are moving forward to reinforcing our main source at Five Mile Creek and to develop secondary sources for the future. This is no small feat as we face a changing climate in the future. We will continue to collect data from commercial and zone metering to keep track of water usage. And, Nelson Hydro is exploring how we might harness more power opportunities from new pressure-reducing valves.

Nelson Hydro put us on the map with the first-ever community-financed solar garden. What we learn from this project will inform future energy planning. The Ecosave program continues to provide excellent opportunities for customers to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Nelson Hydro has dramatically reduced the number of power outages with consistent and effective maintenance and infrastructure renewal.

The city’s continued investment in broadband and technology has given us world-wide recognition as Nelson was the smallest city ever to be named one of the Smart 21 by the Intelligent Communities Forum based in New York.

We are exploring an Innovation Centre and the Youth Centre is hosting the Tech club with 400 youth members. Nelson joins other Canadian communities as a StartUP city to encourage entrepreneurs in the tech industry and we are part of a 500 member regional technology group.

Our community steps up when there are challenges. The street culture collaborative completed its first year and we have learned much from their work.

They partnered with police, mental health, nursing students, the business community and social services to implement a whole community approach making a difference for people on the street. Police Chief Paul Burkart, who brought in the return of the beat officer, is leading the way with the Nelson Fentanyl Task Force. And Fire Chief Len MacCharles is working locally, regionally and provincially on the urgent issue of wildfire mitigation.

These are only a few of the highlights. For more news, please visit our new website at nelson.ca

We are a talented, artistic, athletic and educated community. We wouldn’t be this way if not for the people who live here and work to make our community strong.

Thank you to everyone for doing your part. Happy New Year, and don’t forget to wave at the plow truck as it passes by.

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