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Plan forthcoming to eventually deal with abandoned gas station sites in Nelson: Coun. Charlesworth

Nelson Daily Editor
By Nelson Daily Editor
December 9th, 2010

By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily

Brownfields are an eyesore and have been a sore spot for Nelsonites ever since the major gas companies began closing them down in Nelson — and leaving them as empty fields — since the late 1990s.

But Nelson is not alone as brownfields pimple the landscape of nearly every community across Canada, a testament to how the environment can be laid to waste and rendered barren and unusable in such a short time.

However, within the next year municipalities like Nelson could have recourse for changing their landscape for the better, said Coun. Kim Charlesworth.

Through a recent “webinar” on brownfields, Coun. Charlesworth learned there is a move afoot to create a “toolkit” for municipalities to use to coerce the gas companies to at least make the sites more compatible with the surrounding landscape.

“They seem to think there is more willingness on the part of the gas companies to deal with the municipalities to get the land — even if they can’t sell the land — into some kind of safe, productive use like parks, community gardens using raised beds, a public place where artwork is displayed, or something that looks a little better than a vacant lot with a fence around it,” she said.

Brownfield sites are abandoned or underused industrial and commercial facilities available for re-use, but expansion or redevelopment of such a facility may be complicated by real or perceived environmental contaminations.

In Nelson, the Esso station on Baker Street was torn down over two years ago and the Esso commercial cardlock facility on Railway Street was decommissioned one year ago.

The Fairview Esso shut down last summer, leaving a total of three abandoned Esso properties to welcome people to the Queen City.

Along with two Chevron stations — one on Hall Mines Road and another on Nelson Avenue — a total of five gas stations in Nelson have been demolished and fenced in the past decade.

City council had discussed the situation at the council table before, said Coun. Charlesworth, and even met with representatives from Esso last summer on the possibility of doing something with their three sites — all to no avail.

Through the webinar Counc. Charlesworth raised the issue that the current municipal taxation scheme provides a dis-incentive to the owners to do anything with the land if it is considered a brownfield.

Her suggestion was to reverse that, providing tax incentives for them to do something with the land. That suggestion was entertained with some enthusiasm, she said, but it ultimately has to be changed at the Provincial level.

“But with our provincial politics in disarray at the moment I wouldn’t hazard a guess at how long that would take,” she said.



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