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Final stamp put on bylaw to govern civil behaviour on city streets

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
July 6th, 2018

The city’s downtown now has a code of conduct.

City council formally passed amendments June 25 to the Traffic (Pedestrian) Bylaw, which outline civil behaviour on the streets and how the city hopes to achieve it.

The pedestrian regulations in the amending bylaw deal with unacceptable behaviour on the city’s streets that apply to the entire community rather than being specifically focused on the activity of panhandling, as was originally introduced.

The new bylaw would add another “tool” in the belt of police and bylaw officers, in addition to the Provincial Safe Streets Act legislation, through which the police have the ability to specifically deal with aggressive panhandling. Restorative justice, rather than the court system, will be also be used to deal with pedestrian offences when possible.

However, in order for restorative justice to apply, an offence must first be recognized as a bylaw offence rather than a criminal offence.

“It is recognized that issuing penalties to persons who may be at the poverty line does not make common sense,” read a city staff report to council.

The city set the penalties for violations of the rules of the road in the downtown, Although there is a fine attached to the bylaw, the first course of action for the Pedestrian Bylaw is to educate people before going through enforcement.

The idea around setting a price for fines for breaking the bylaw is that without an amount there could not be a bylaw.

Although the people who may be penalized on the street might not have any money, the prices listed in the bylaw might be much more reasonable than the Safe Streets Act.

The fine for obstructing the street, or being a street or public space nuisance, is $50, reduced to $20 if it is paid early (within 14 days), then up to $100 after 28 days.

The regulations of the new bylaw were reviewed by the three stakeholder groups with limited comments:

  • the “social sector” expressed concern that some of the street population may be challenged by the language, although alternate language was not provided;
  • city police indicated that more specific language with respect to defining “obstruction” would be preferred although they were comfortable with applying discretion; and
  • the business sector “strongly indicated that they would prefer stronger language,” including specifics about where panhandling was permitted.

Final reading on the bylaw was passed by council.

Taking it outside

Touchstones Nelson is looking to green up the gray space around the venerable building.

The city’s museum of art and history is applying for a $30,000 public art grant from Columbia Basin Trust to turn the Vernon Street garden area into a meeting place.

The idea “truly encapsulates what Touchstones Nelson stands for: a cultural hub dedicated to inclusive-ity, the preservation of history and expansion of contemporary public art,” said Touchstones executive director Astrid Heyerdahl.

The revamped locations would include the site of the former utility box (beside the ramp on Ward Street), the garden area on Vernon Street (remove garden and replace with artwork and meeting space) and the current utility box (vinyl design).

As well, the archive steps covered structure and door would receive a vinyl, urban furniture design, and the hydro boxes on Ward Street would be included in the design.

“Art in public places should be considered as part of a much wider set of issues connecting planning, landscape and the environment,” said Heyerdahl in a request for a letter of support from city council.

“As we know, art is more than design. It is about communication and creating important discussion. When we have these important discussions and possibilities for engagement in the public sphere, we offer our community more connection and sense of place.”

The public art at Touchstones Nelson will mark the area not only as a site of history and heritage, but as an “artistic site and community hub, eager to inclusively engage with everyone in our community,” she added.

The project is intended to expose the insides of the museum and bring it to the forefront in an engaging, artistic and intriguing manner.

“The mosaic and vinyl designs situated at the front entrance ways to the Museum will alter the site and announce it as a cultural hub to all those passing by, thus creating more visibility for the museum and artistic engagement,” said Heyerdahl.

The final public art piece and meeting site will be developed by an architect and will be approved by the City of Nelson.

Categories: General


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