Nelson is known in BC, across Canada and internationally for the beautiful heritage buildings on Baker Street and in the downtown core. It is unfortunate the Community Heritage Commission was dismantled for the formation of a new multipurpose advisory planning committee.
As one letter to the editor stated, other communities in BC are working to establish heritage commissions modeled after Nelson and unfortunately we have chosen the course of over and done with.
While the new committee may work well for streamlining the development procedure, it will not have the focus on heritage that it probably could have. Nelson has been recognized as a tourist designation for the heritage buildings on Baker Street. It is regrettable that just when a few building structures are threatened that we get rid of the Community Heritage Commission.
In the early 1980s, thousands of dollars were spent from grants and by building owners, along with hundreds of hours of volunteer work, to restore the buildings in the downtown core. Changes to the facade on the old Nelson Daily News building and other changes to storefronts on Baker Street raise concerns about protection of the heritage buildings.
Now could be the time to offer tax credits to building owners who maintain and restore their heritage buildings and penalties to those who change building structures from the original design.
It is sad that some people do not put a value on the heritage buildings which have drawn tourists from all over the world to Nelson.
It is shortsighted to get rid of the Community Heritage Commission members, present and past, whose contributions, dedication and knowledge of heritage in Nelson were second to none. The former heritage adviser Bob Inwood was one of the major contributors to the heritage restoration work in the early ‘80s on Baker Street.
Going ahead with the re-organization of committees for expediency of accommodating developers and businesses who want to construct or renovate the buildings may not be a good idea.
The building owners and business probably had the best of intentions as well, in the 1950s, when they added aluminum siding to the Baker Street storefronts to modernize, covering over and in the process damaging the heritage buildings.
Hopefully Nelson is not going down that road again, but it is a disappointment to get rid of the Community Heritage Commission at a time when there are a number of newcomers to Nelson who were not here to see the difference, dedication and beauty that resulted from the restoration of the heritage buildings in Nelson.
The Civic Theatre is another example that could be restored, similar to the Capitol Theatre. Restoration of the interior stage and décor could be another heritage treasure for Nelson.
It should be noted that some buildings such as Gerick Cycle & Ski and the Hume Hotel have been enhanced by the owners’ restoration of their buildings and they should be commended for doing so.
While the new committee may have as one of its duties to take note of heritage issues, it may not be adequate in these changing times. With the heritage registry it would seem heritage buildings are protected, but as we see with the facade at the old Nelson Daily News building, that is not necessarily the case.
With heritage being the theme and core of tourism in Nelson, hopefully citizens will demand protection of the heritage buildings in our community into the future for the benefit of all.
Robin Cherbo is a Nelson city councillor who shares Wednesday this space with his colleagues around the table