Pubdate: Wed, 18 Jan 2017
Source: Nelson Star (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Black Press
Page: A6
Author: Deb Kozak


Happy New Year everyone! The beginning of a new year is both a time of
personal contemplation and looking forward. And so it is for council. It
is hard to believe that we are midway through this term.

In the past year we saw vigorous and thoughtful debate on some complicated
issues. 2016 tested council and the results will shape and define future

There is no doubt that developing policy in the social realm is much more
difficult than considering a variance application to build a shed.

Discussions about pot, panhandling and short-term rentals saw some of the
longest and most contentious debate among councillors this past year. None
of these are easy issues and each elicited varying community responses.

Let's have a look at all three.

Marijuana dispensaries

Perhaps the most contentious issue to date has been the proposed
regulatory bylaw governing medical marijuana dispensaries. After repealing
the first bylaw, council went back to the drawing board.

Local governments have been put in the unique position of trying to
regulate a substance that is still illegal. The federal government will be
legalizing marijuana. The question is how long will it take?

This means that anything put in place now will be subject to change once
the laws change.

Some communities have not allowed dispensaries to open, while others have
developed their own bylaws.

This is where Nelson council sits. This week you can view the bylaw that
council will consider in February. It is based closely on bylaws from
Victoria, Squamish and Vancouver.

The intent is to provide interim guidelines for business owners and the
community until the Federal law is changed.

See more detail here:


Over the past couple of years, panhandling has been steadily increasing in
the downtown core.

Business owners, residents, police and social service agencies are all
concerned. Nelson is a compassionate community; people want to help and do
not want to see panhandling or poverty increase.

Rather than moving forward on a bylaw at this time, council has supported
the hiring of the street outreach team. On Thursday, the team will report
on their first three months of operation. We anticipate deeper insight and
better understanding into this complicated issue.

As the team moves through this coming year, the city will continue to
monitor and work with the collaborative to use this knowledge and build

Affordable housing

Housing - affordability, sufficient housing stock and a variety of living
choices - has been a continuing concern. With the ever increasing
popularity of short term rentals, commonly known as Airbnb, Nelson's
available housing stock is facing another challenge.

The recently adopted bylaw provides clear guidelines on vacation rentals.

The intent is to encourage more long-term rental and to protect the
integrity of our neighbourhoods.

Good news arrived with the recent announcement from Interior Health to
build 43 new residential beds in Nelson.

Add to that the $6 million grant to the Nelson CARES society from BC
Housing to redevelop the Lakeside apartments. Both of these projects will
add much needed housing for the community.

A very good start to the new year.

New year, new budget

After approving modest increases in water and sewer rates, council is now
hearing budget presentations from all departments.

The recent provincial order to increase police staff and the recent
settlement of the police contract will see substantial increases over
time. Negotiations with CUPE and the firefighters are active.

These settlements will add further pressure to the budget making it very
challenging for council to remain within an overall two per cent increase
as outlined in the five-year financial plan. Deliberations continue with a
public open house to be announced in February.

The past year has had its challenges and triumphs and 2017 will bring
more. Upcoming is the Urban Design report, more business and housing
developments and opportunities for all of us to continue making Nelson one
of the best places to live.

I'll look forward to hearing from you on my walkabouts. I also invite you
to contact me over  or call City Hall.

In closing, I extend my deepest sympathy to Danny Rickaby's family.
Danny's business acumen, entrepreneurial spirit, generosity, and love of
community and family will be terribly missed.
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