Former mayor leads delegation to council in support of Columbia redesign—parallel parking and all
In response to opposition to the Columbia Ave redesign with a wider sidewalk and parallel parking on the north side “feature block” between Queen and Washington, Bill Profili led a delegation to council on Monday evening to support the design.
Profili said, “I’m here on behalf of a group of individuals who are very interested in Rossland and the downtown core, and ways to enhance the downtown core and business viabilities.”
“We strongly support the vision of Columbia Avenue as presented in [ISL Design’s] proposal,” Profili said, reading council a letter crafted by Aaron Cosbey and signed by prominent members of the community.
The letter concludes, “This is a once-in-a-century opportunity to produce a lasting positive legacy for the City of Rossland. We urge Council to seize it.”
The full text of the letter is reproduced below.
Profili offered some comments after finishing the letter, noting that council had two main options, one for the “status quo,” and the other to “look to the future with a vision.”
“Both will affect the city for the next 30 to 40 years,” he said. “Status quo is certainly something council needs to look at, but the value of status quo is related to the old adage, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Profili argued that downtown needs some fixing.
“I see businesses downtown closing, I see our community not growing and developing. The problems of 30 years ago—the need to enhance the downtown core and attract people—still exist. A lot of the businesses are still struggling, and they tell me they are barely making ends meet,” he said.
“I think the status quo, according to the OCP [Official Community Plan], needs adjusting,” he said. The second option, to “enhance the downtown core” is “reflected in the community plan.”
Profili was careful to assert, “Neither decision is right or wrong, depending on who you talk to. There isn’t a right or a wrong in decisions of this nature. But I feel very strongly that a lot of Rosslanders hope council chooses the decision that brings with it a vision.”
Coun. Jody Blomme had two questions for Profili based on “arguments I’ve been hearing quite a bit.”
Blomme said one concern was that “the current design with parallel parking and a wider sidewalk is going to further concentrate pedestrian traffic and focus on that one bock, and further alienate the blocks on either side.”
“If council creates a focus, which would obviously happen on that block,” Profili replied, “I think it’s very critical that the streetcape amenities and other amenities on the other blocks be brought up to standard, so people are encouraged to look at the other blocks.”
“Certainly, [the redesign] will create a focus,” he said, but he offered the “strip mall” of Cranbrook as a counter-example that “focus is a good thing, provided it doesn’t draw everything like a magnet.”
“The way to prevent that is to make the whole six blocks attractive and user-friendly, with good streetscaping,” he said. “I don’t think you could ignore five blocks for the benefit of one.”
Blomme then asked about the parallel parking which would run along the north side of Columbia for the feature block, in front of the post office and pharmacy, which “are on a daily basis used by people with restricted mobility,” Blomme said. “Making it harder to park in close proximity to those buildings is an issue a lot of people are bringing up.”
“Given the nature of the drugstore and post office, perhaps there’s a need for council to look at a couple oversize designated parking stalls,” Profili said. “But I look at communities like Fruitvale that are all parallel parking downtown—Fruitvale has no angle parking in the downtown core—and people still manage to go to the drugstore.”
“The drugstore in Trail is all parallel parking,” Profili continued, “with a handicap stall right outside the door. People park across the street and walk across.”
“There are ample examples out there to make sure we meet the needs, and in the last five weeks I’ve become very much aware of the needs of people that are not hop, skipping and jumping around,” he said, referring to personal difficulties.
“I think those issues have to be addressed,” he concluded, “but I don’t think they’re insurmountable, and I don’t think the vision should be lost.”
LETTER TO COUNCIL:
We, the undersigned, are concerned at the possibility that Council may decide not to move ahead with the Columbia Revitalization project as proposed by the consultants, ISL Design.
We strongly support the vision of Columbia Avenue as presented in that proposal. We note that the proposal is fully in line with the OCP, which is supposed to guide our planning processes, and was vetted and improved by several public meetings in Rossland, as well as by input from the City’s public works staff. It represents the results of a considerable investment in outside expertise. Going against that expert advice, and against the OCP, and against the will of the many Rosslanders whom we represent, should not be done lightly.
We believe that forward-thinking planning reflected in this design will pay dividends to the citizens of Rossland, and our downtown merchants, for decades to come. A beautiful and inviting main street, built to be pedestrian- and user-friendly, makes people stop and spend more time and money, as well as being an asset to Rosslanders generally as a more pleasant environment.
We note that the parallel parking option on the north side of Columbia between Washington and Spokane does NOT entail a net loss of parking for downtown shoppers, since it will be more than offset by increased parking in the lot behind the Thrift store, and in the lot behind the Credit Union, both of which are less than a block off Columbia.
We also note that the physical design of the sidewalks as envisioned will not cost significantly more than alternate designs, given that the Ministry of Transport is repaving them in any case. Streetscaping features such as benches and trees will of course mean a budgetary outlay, and in times of fiscal restraint this has to be carefully considered. While we don’t have access to the budget figures, we estimate that full streetscaping—the deluxe package—could not possibly exceed two or three hundred thousand dollars. We know that outlays in this range can be financed through use of reserves and short term low-interest borrowing without raising taxes, and we urge Council to commit to that as a limiting guideline for any non-essential spending considered as part of this redesign. We also stress that streetscaping done at the time of the other construction will be cheaper than anything done after the fact.
We are concerned that Council has not yet actually approved the final design for Columbia, and urge them to do so, to avoid delays and costs that would be associated with redesign at this late state of the project. We assume that MoT has been using the ISL design in their planning, and we are concerned that the further into the process we get, the more limited our options will be.
And we are concerned that the voices of the many people in Rossland that support the revitalization are not being heard. Those opposed are right to speak out, and their concerns will undoubtedly improve the final result. But those in favour, as usual, do not make the effort and thus are not counted, even though they may be strong in numbers. If the Council of the day had reacted to the small but vocal opposition at the time, we would not now have such valued infrastructure as the Columbia trailhead tunnel.
This is a once-in-a-century opportunity to produce a lasting positive legacy for the City of Rossland. We urge Council to seize it.