Current Planning Projects

For an overview of the work completed by the Department of Development Services and Engineering in the previous year, refer to the 2016 Development Services Annual Report.

Downtown Parking Strategy

As downtown Nelson becomes busier, the availability of convenient parking in the downtown has been raised as an issue by the business community, visitors and the community at large. Council had identified the need to develop a parking strategy as a priority in their 2015-2018 Strategic Plan. The City established an internal parking committee that has been working since the beginning of the year to develop a draft strategy. Staff presented the draft parking strategy to Council on May 15, 2017 and were directed to develop a consultation process with stakeholders.

The draft strategy includes a vision for more efficient use of existing downtown parking as well as opportunities to develop new parking, identification of guiding principles, and strategies and actions for implementing those principles.

In 2016, staff completed an initial review of parking availability in the downtown. This review included paid meters, free two-hour parking zones, institutional and private parking, handicap stalls and loading zones. During the summer review period, it was determined that the average occupancy of public stalls throughout the entire downtown core parking area was 75%, with key locations on Baker, Vernon, Victoria, Kootenay and Josephine Streets being well over 85% during the hours between 10:00am to 4:00pm. Optimal parking stall occupancy is considered to be 85%. With an average of 75% utilization, Nelson’s downtown core is slightly below optimal use. It was also noted in this review, that handicap stalls (50% occupied) and institutional and private parking appeared underutilized, that loading zones were well used and the 15 minute meters were causing confusion for drivers.

The draft parking strategy proposes a more efficient use of public parking areas via:

  • Increased parking supply by converting parallel stalls to angled stalls wherever practical in and adjacent to the downtown core. Line painting is currently underway and includes more angled parking on Baker, Cedar, Victoria and Lake Streets.
  • Implementation of new technology. The Luke II PayStation has been installed on Hall Street servicing the 400 and 500 blocks. Parking on these two blocks will require individuals to pay via the PayStation. The PayStation will allow users to pay via coin or credit card (including tap and pay credit cards) and eventually will also allow parking to be paid via smartphone. Features of the new PayStation include: − parking is paid by licence plate number, − users do not have to return to their car to display the parking receipt, and, − users can extend their parking time via text/phone. If the PayStation pilot is successfully, the City will add additional pay stations within the downtown and waterfront areas. Ultimately, individuals will also be able to use this technology to pay for parking at metered stalls.
  • Better management of the existing zones including introduction of commuter zones. The Strategy proposes to increase some of the parking spots on Baker Street from one hour to two hours, and to create a number of 8-hour paid parking ‘commuter’ zones in various areas to accommodate employees working in the downtown.
  • Better utilizing off-street parking. The Strategy identified private or institutional parking within the downtown core where there are opportunities to better utilize this parking throughout the day and during weekends and evenings.
  • Review of free parking. The Strategy proposes a review of the significant number of two-hour free parking spots in lower Uphill to achieve more efficient use of these spaces.

The draft Downtown Parking Strategy can be accessed here.

Railtown Sustainable Neighbourhood Action Plan

The planning process for the Railtown Sustainable Neighborhood Action Plan (SNAP) began with a workshop in January 2016 with over 30 key stakeholders including landowners, business owners, key community groups, the Mayor and other members of City Council.  The focus on the workshop was: Now, Wow, How – What’s great about Railtown NOW?  What would it take to make it WOW? And HOW do we get there?  Lots of ideas and enthusiasm came out of this workshop and it was a great start to the planning process.  This event was followed up by the development of a project webpage which became the information hub throughout the planning process.  The website also hosted three surveys that allowed us to gather a significant amount of feedback as we developed the Plan. 

The Railtown SNAP was developed through a detailed and implementation-focused three-phase planning process that included community and stakeholder engagement, market review and analysis, and close collaboration between City departments.  Development of the Railtown SNAP included three sessions with the Railtown Stakeholder Team and Technical Team, two open houses, numerous one-on-one meetings with Railtown landowners and business owners as well as two open houses, three public feedback surveys and a project webpage.  The top three ideas the public wanted to see in Railtown included mixed use development, a multiuse path across the tracks from Railtown to the waterfront, and extension of the pathway along the creek from Baker Street to Cottonwood Market.  Better pedestrian connections, affordable housing and restoration of Cottonwood Creek were also seen as important in the Railtown area. 

Impetus for the project came from the Sustainable Waterfront and Downtown Master Plan which envisioned intensification of Railtown with a mix of residential, commercial and industrial, as well as better connections between Railtown, the downtown and the waterfront.  The Railtown Sustainable Neighbourhood Action Plan (SNAP) provides a vision and implementation plan for the development of Railtown.  The Plan includes specific projects, and provides recommendations for partnerships, programs and funding sources with an implementation table outlining catalyst actions to build and gain momentum. 

Implementation of the Plan is set to begin in 2018, and will be key to attracting new development and investment to Nelson and achieving Council’s goals of vitality, vibrancy and economic resiliency, by:

•             supporting anticipated market demand for new jobs;

•             providing better physical and visual connections to the downtown, the waterfront and adjacent neighbourhoods;

•             providing brownfield and ecological restoration;

•             providing mixed use and innovative live-work residential/commercial opportunities; and,

•             creating a walkable, livable, compact community that is more sustainable environmentally, socially, and financially.

Downtown Urban Design Strategy

Planning for Nelson’s Downtown Urban Design Strategy began in April 2016. To provide vision and direction for the strategy, City staff worked with a consultant, a stakeholder working group including representatives from the arts and culture, tourism, and architecture and design communities, as well as local downtown businesses, and the public.  The process has included a number of stakeholder and public engagement opportunities including meetings and workshops, a weekend design fest, pop-up booths at summer markets, three surveys at different stages in the planning process and a website. Review of the draft plan is currently underway and will be presented to the public at an open house in March 2017. 

It has been 35 years since Nelson’s downtown was revitalized as part of the Main Street Program.  Since that time, the downtown has grown into a highly successful, charming and vibrant place.  Similar to the servicing infrastructure beneath Baker Street, which is nearing the end of its lifespan, the above ground public realm is also in need of an update. 

The Urban Design Strategy is the City of Nelson’s master plan for the public realm. It will ensure that Council has the direction that it needs to make the necessary investments in enhancements and maintenance over time, including coordination of public-realm improvements with infrastructure upgrades. It includes a comprehensive vision for the future, as well as focused strategies for key elements in the public realm such as signage, sidewalk patios, lighting, street furniture, bike parking, public art, landscaping and public amenities like electric vehicle charging stations and public washrooms.

The Downtown Urban Design Strategy will complement and reinforce recently completed projects in the downtown, including the Stores to Shores Hall Street project and the Railtown Sustainable Neighbourhood Action Plan.  Once completed, the Plan will provide a visual toolkit for urban design strategies specific to Nelson – strategies that will reinforce the city’s renowned character and provide direction for implementation over time.

Short-Term Rentals

Information on the current short-term rental regulations can be found under Business Licencing.

In the spring of 2016, Council directed staff to undertake a public consultation and planning process to develop regulations for short term vacation rentals (31 days or less).  Staff undertook over 200 hours of policy research; had numerous conversations with other communities; developed a dedicated webpage and posted surveys to gather public feedback; evaluated 350 survey responses, dozens of emails and phone inquiries; and held a stakeholder meeting as well as a public Town Hall. 

Staff presented the results of the public feedback as well recommendations to Council on July 18 and August 8, 2016, and Bylaw amendments were approved by Council on December 5, 2016.  The new regulations came into effect on January 1, 2017.  The regulations include:

•             3 types of SRT licences: annual, summer (May 1 to August 31), and 31 day; and 3 types of STR dwellings: guest homes, guest rooms or guest suites (secondary or detached secondary suites);

•             a cap of 110 annual licences and 40 for summer licences; there is no cap on 31 day licences, however there can only be one per property per year;

•             maximum of three licences per block;

•             primary residency required for all licences, except summer licences;

•             parking must comply with the Off-Street Parking & Landscape Bylaw 3274;

•             each property can have up to one annual licence and another licence less than 6 months;

•             annual licence holders must have a Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism membership;

•             all licences (except those that were grandfathered) require a $500 deposit; and

•             STRs need to apply by December 15th each year to ensure that they maintain their spot in the queue for the following year.

Benefits of regulating STRs include ensuring a fair, level playing field and retaining the ability to protect the integrity of residential neighbourhoods by imposing certain restrictions. The regulations establish a robust and transparent licencing mechanism, while still retaining discretion for exceptional circumstances.  Communities around the world are grappling with the complexities of accommodating short term rentals (which are a commercial use) in residential areas.  City Council has made it a priority to accommodate these operations for the benefit of visitors, residents, and neighbourhoods, while at the same time mitigating the potential detrimental impacts to communities.