Today’s Poll

Advertorial — Mayor and Council and fellow citizens

Contributor
By Contributor
May 7th, 2017

Mayor and Council and fellow citizens:

From the smallest shops employing one or two people, to the largest businesses in our community that employs many,  Nelson’s business community would like to formally communicate our support but also our concerns regarding the proposed improvements to our downtown core. As a community, we may have been resting on our laurels for the past few years, proudly repeating how great Nelson is, while nervously overlooking some worrying decay that is becoming more and more obvious, to residents and tourists alike. We feel that this process of identifying the problems and coming up with the solutions that will ensure our community prospers is long overdue and is crucial to Nelson’s immediate and long term success. We are one of the very few vibrant small downtowns left in North America. We want to preserve it and see it thrive.

A clean, welcoming, interesting and unique downtown core communicates that we as a community care. We care about our residents that live and work here, we care about the visitors that come and spend money here, we care about who we are as a community and we care about the direction we are taking as we move towards the future.

Infrastructure upgrades and improvements are inevitable; these have to be done efficiently, they have to be done effectively, and completed within our financial means. The aesthetic changes to our town are just as important as changes to the infrastructure. Sewer and water pipes are never seen;  light standards, trees, benches and building facades are what we live with every day. It’s our metaphorical packaging, our clothing; it’s how we communicate who we are as a geographic place and as a community.  Without exception, every business or person listed below feels that we have let downtown incrementally decay in recent years. Evidence of this decay includes parking congestion, panhandling, loitering, open drug use, drug dealing, graffiti, signage bylaws infractions and problems with garbage handling. These issues are having an obvious and undeniable impact on the look and feel of our downtown. This isn’t politics, or judgment, but rather is an unbiased and clear observation. This is what we are now communicating to our residents and to our visitors:

“We don’t care enough about our residents, our businesses or our visitors to fix these problems”. 

Like the ‘broken window’ theory in criminology, this decline says, we don’t care, and neither should you. This is also what we are hearing from our friends, neighbours and customers, some of whom no longer  feel comfortable or safe going downtown.

Much has been said about affordable housing over the past few years in Nelson. The problem seems complex, and it’s solutions elusive. One thing seems simple and obvious. If local businesses prosper, they can hire local people, which means there will be fewer people at risk from poverty and homelessness. If the downtown is left to decay, fewer tourists come, fewer locals come downtown, businesses are more likely to fail, jobs are lost and the downward spiral continues. It’s not just Baker Street shops and their direct employees who suffer, but also the builders, plumbers, roofers and electricians that they hire to fix the buildings, and accountants that do their taxes, the cleaners, the window washers and those who do computer repairs.  A dollar spent locally circulates throughout the community and supports many people up and down the economic ladder.

In order to compete with the onslaught of online retail, a bricks and mortar business has to provide a great user experience. To compete with big box stores and the online sellers is a tall order. It is made infinitely more difficult if your customer struggles to find parking, is accosted for money by an aggressive panhandler, trips over people sleeping on the sidewalk and then walks through a cloud of marijuana smoke, all while observing the general decay of the ambience on their way to a store. We are not indifferent to the plight of marginalized people. We support efforts to assist them. At the same time while Baker Street is for everyone, if our own citizens are feeling pushed out and uncomfortable in their own city, better solutions are required and have been instituted in other communities.

The cumulative effect of this will be felt first by local businesses. If sales decline retailers can’t buy as much inventory which makes local businesses less competitive and less attractive to shoppers. They cut hours, or they lay people off.  Businesses will fail. Windows are papered up, and shops left vacant. No jobs means people look for work elsewhere. Tax revenue goes down, less money for repairs and infrastructure deteriorates. Tourists would go elsewhere because who wants to visit a decaying community with no jobs.  The trickle down effect on our residents would be immediate, pronounced, and would affect everyone in the community.

Before we tackle this vitally important downtown revitalization, we need to deal with some of these basic problems. We also need to finish the Hall Street upgrade and Railtown plans. These are equally important, and are crucial components of downtown that need our full and undivided attention.  We are concerned that what appears to be an already overloaded planning department won’t have the resources to give each of these important projects the time that is required for them to succeed. Real public input and constructive dialogue is critical. We feel that this has been missing during the past few years, on all these projects. Public input meetings seem frustratingly infrequent and ineffective, residents and business’s feel that they are given lip service but there isn’t an open and honest dialogue with the City of Nelson. 

To us, it feels like the City is adversarial towards its business community. Businesses are bound by red tape, delays, indifference and taxes, and get little or no encouragement in return. 

Our downtown businesses are the beating heart of this community. Let’s work together to stop further decline and look forward with solutions and creativity to guarantee the success of what has been and will continue to be one of Canada’s best and most unique communities.

Sincerely,

Pixie Candy, Nature’s Health, Cottonwood Kitchens, Maison, Vogue Studio, Tribute, Eddies Music, Red Clover Dental, Sweet Repeats, Sacred Ride, Habits, Esprit de la Femme Lingerie , Hipperson Hardware, Big Cranium Design, Scout, Bia Bora, Ted Allen’s Jewellery, Hume Hotel, Loot, Sidewinders Coffee, Mountain Waters Spa, Gerick Cycle & Ski, DeVitos Shoes, Cartolina, Vibe, Aldo’s Dry Cleaners, Snowpack, Hall Printing, KWC Block – Lana Donaldson, Ripping Giraffe and Baked Tanning.

Finley’s Bar & Grill, Mallard’s Source for Sports, Baker Street Menswear, Main Street Diner, Blue Sky Clothing, Jackson’s Hole & Grill, Valhalla Pure Outfitters, Nelson Flower Shop, Culinary Conspiracy, Best Western Baker Street Inn, Shoes for the Soul, Joe Zornes – Owner 191 Baker Street, Cowan Office Supply, Lordco Auto Parts, Sanderella’s Boutique, Cotton Creek Clothing, Shoe La La, Nelson Chrysler, Mountain Baby and Adventure Hotel.

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