Amesville, OH vs. Nelson, BC


Welcome to our first match-up in the fourth annual Strongest Town Competition! In this round, 16 towns are facing off, and 8 will advance to the next segment of the contest based on your votes. We invite you to read the answers that representatives from these two towns provided to questions about economic resilience, citizen involvement, land use and more, then vote for the strongest.

Can’t decide? If you’re looking for inspiration, check out how we describe the Strong Towns approach, or maybe take a look at the questions that make up our Strong Towns Strength Test.

Voting closes at 12pm CDT on Thursday, March 21st.


Photo by Gary Goosman

Photo by Gary Goosman

Amesville, Ohio

Entry submitted by: Lynne Genter, Mary Ann Westendorf, Chuck Blyth, and Gary Goosman

At Strong Towns, we believe that local government is a platform for strong citizens to collaboratively build a prosperous place. How are residents in your town involved in shaping its future? How do residents’ experiences, struggles, and concerns directly inform the projects undertaken by local government? Provide one or more examples.

Many communities have abdicated their duties in managing local government, but must rely on the county or state to provide basic services. This provides no measure of local control and often means services are not guaranteed to the local community. Amesville, by contrast, is lucky to have dedicated Council members that are willing to oversee the activities and ordinances of the Village. They all contribute additional volunteer hours in cleaning the park, weeding village garden areas, and numerous other tasks.

Also, the mayor and village council have created ad hoc committees to solicit input and suggestions, worked with Ohio University to do a SWOT analysis of the village and other, more informal gatherings to solicit ideas for the community.

One of the newest commitments is a team (working in conjunction with Rural Action) called the Entrepreneurial and Economic Advisory group. As taken from the Rural Action website:

“The Entrepreneurial Communities approach emphasizes local organizing and local leadership to create a long term support system for businesses of all sizes, products, and stages of growth. Rural Action believes that communities have many talented people that are running or want to run a business, and every community has people that want to see their local businesses thrive.“

Running parallel to that effort is another project called the Community Improvement Challenge, sponsored by Athens County. The goals of this effort, according to the program overview, are:

“Promote civic engagement and community improvement! Work together with members of your community to make it healthier, happier and more prosperous. Spur innovation, creativity, problem solving, resourcefulness, social participation, community pride, excitement, and hope.”

At Strong Towns we believe that financial solvency is a prerequisite for long-term prosperity. What steps has your community taken to ensure its financial security? Do local leaders adequately do the math on new investments proposed in your town to ensure that they’ll be able to afford them now and afford their maintenance in the future?

Amesville has done well over the last 7 years and was managed effectively during the 20 years that Mr. Frank Hare served as Mayor. Below are some of the statistics that reflect on the quality of life in Amesville in 2017:

  • Amesville has the highest median household income in Athens County ($47,899).

  • Amesville has the lowest crime rate of any community in Athens County (below 2.7%).

  • Amesville has a low median house cost ($85,544).

  • Amesville has the county’s second highest rate of college graduates (32%) trailing only Athens at 64%.

  • 5 out of the last 7 years, Amesville has been voted the “Best Small Town in Athens County” by readers of the A News.

Despite cuts in revenue from the State of Ohio, the Village has managed to maintain a surplus in funds while maintaining most services.

Even with all these positive attribute, there are still challenges faced by the Village. These challenges have been made worse by cuts from the State of Ohio and other revenue sources. Four years ago, the state legislature cut local government funds to the Village by 50%, which cost Amesville thousands of dollars. Then the State eliminated Mayor’s Courts for small communities (under 500 population), also costing Amesville thousands of dollars.

Despite these changes, the Village has managed to maintain a surplus in funds while maintaining most services. From 1960 to 2015, the Consumer Price Index [a measure of the overall cost of goods for American families] has gone up 801%. Over this same period of time:

  • Water rates in Amesville have increased 31%

  • Sewer rates (starting in 2007) have increased 5%

  • Wages for Village Council members have stayed the same

  • Wages for the Mayor have increased only $760

  • Property taxes for the county have increased 27%

  • Property taxes for the Village have increased 7%

This was all accomplished by seeking outside funding from private and public foundations, gathering individual donations for many projects, and through volunteer labor on almost all new projects in Amesville.

If we took a walking tour through your town, what would we see? How does your community use its land productively to promote long-term financial resilience?

Through a walking tour you would see many of our recent successes, like these volunteer projects that stand out from the past few years:

  • Supported by donations from Airclaws and Coonskin Crossing, the basketball court was re-surfaced and repaired.

  • Supported by the Athens Foundation and local donations (volunteer labor) the Frank and Catherine Hare History Kiosk was built in Gifford Park. It is the only solar, roadside kiosk in the State of Ohio.

  • Supported by the Athens Foundation and local donations, the Amesville Community Garden was built in 2016.

  • Supported by the Athens Foundation, the Amesville Grange offered free gardening classes in 2015 and 2016.

  • Supported by Federal Hocking students, the Athens County Engineer, and local donations, the Amesville playground in Gifford Park was revamped and new features were added.

  • Supported by the Athens County Municipal Court, the former railroad bed in Gifford Park has been cleared in anticipation of a new historic trail.

The sense of community is the best part of Amesville. On June 29, 1998, a 500-year flood destroyed 50% of the businesses and 15% of the housing stock in town. It was a devastating blow, but the community rallied and cleaned the town, supported their neighbors, and started to rebuild homes and businesses. Last year, twenty years after the flood, the residents gathered to have a pot-luck dinner and celebrate the community spirit that helped everyone survive the flood and begin to thrive again.

All the above projects were completed through volunteer labor and donations at no expense to taxpayers in Amesville. Additionally, over the last several years, Amesville saw the installation of free wifi internet in collaboration with the Athens County Library at the Grange Hall. Our wifi had over 2,000 users last year. A Summer Youth Employment group from Community Action painted curbs, mulched gardens, and did other general maintenance in the Village for free. Capstone Properties was encouraged to repair and renovate their property on State Street.

You would also see the successful completion of the AEP energy challenge that created a sustainability plan for Amesville. The Village of Amesville’s Sustainability Roadmap was led by Mayor Gary Goosman and his team with support from AEP Ohio’s Community Energy Savers pilot representatives. The roadmap leveraged existing sustainability initiatives already adopted within the community that are either in the planning or completion phase. The end result is an actionable plan that targets four priority areas to achieve Amesville’s goal of creating a more sustainable and engaged community.

Tell us about your community's local economy. Who are the key players, big and small, and how do they help your town to be financially strong and resilient? What local businesses are you most proud of?

There are two primary business foundations. Airclaws, Inc. offers HVAC equipment service, installation, and preventative maintenance, and has over 50 years of experience with both residential and commercial projects. There is also The Unified Bank. According to its website, “Founded along the banks of the mighty Ohio River in eastern Ohio in 1902 by a group of forward-thinking businessmen, [Unified Bank] is a state chartered, commercial banking organization committed to upholding the vision of its founding fathers by strongly supporting the communities in which it is located and meeting the needs of the residents and small businesses that serve these communities.”

There are also three key non-profits that contribute greatly to the social and economic fabric of the village. They are:

  1. ACRE (Amesville Community Resources for Entrepreneurs). ACRE’s primary purpose is to offer affordable space to artists, businesses, and organizations so they can grow their capacity to offer services.

  2. Federal Hocking School District, Amesville Elementary School: Amesville Elementary prides itself on getting to know our children and families well. We are fortunate that our school is small enough so that we can get to know the children we educate.

  3. Village Productions: Village Productions (VP) is a private, non-profit community-based organization serving the rural, mostly Appalachian, area around Amesville, Ohio. VP has three major program sections: Children’s Programming, Adult Education and Community Events.

These three groups mobilize tons of volunteers, support planning and development strategies, and build the quality of life for the area.

What transportation options exist in your town for people of varying ages, abilities, and means? How easy is it to live in your town without regular access to a car? What transportation investments has your town recently made or is it in the process of making?

Transportation is a big challenge for Amesville, as for any small, rural community in Ohio. There is no public transit and no Uber access. Athens On Demand Transit serves Amesville and is a transit service available to persons with disabilities, providing accessible and affordable door to door transportation service. As space is available, this program will also provide transit service to elderly residents and persons with temporary mobility issues needing transportation to medical and social services appointments. Persons needing assistance for grocery shopping and other rides can also be served as scheduling permits. Beyond that, people rely on neighbors and friends to help them with travel plans. The village does not have enough funds to address this problem in any significant way, and is looking to the county, state and feds for long term solutions.

How easy is it to become an entrepreneur or a small-scale developer in your town? What kinds of support are available for a resident who wants to open a business or build on a small vacant lot?

It is not necessarily easy to start a new operation as an entrepreneur, but there is lots of support through groups like the Entrepreneurial Advocacy Team. Here is how that team describes itself:

We envision a community that is vibrant, welcoming and engaged. We also see a community that supports social innovation, new businesses, new ideas and provides a quality of life for those that live in or near Amesville. We plan to bring together musicians, historians, artists, farmers, retail businesses and other sectors of Amesville to provide expertise and support for new entrepreneurs that have a dream and vision for their lives.

We are trying to create new opportunities through arts, history, tourism and culture that make Amesville more vibrant.

The community (Amesville and surrounding townships) feel there is a need for more entrepreneurial development and support. This project is intended to build a sense of community, offer small business opportunities, engage local artists, farmers, businesses, and build a central place for community pride and sustainability. Our expected outcomes for this effort should be increased property values and tax base; more jobs with higher wages; retained population; increased positive image; more accessible business financing; and better overall quality of life.

We are pursuing an Arts & Culture strategy. We expect to see the following impacts:

  1. Small scale economic development: increased awareness about activities at Village Productions and Amesville can draw more people to events, concerts and classes that will benefit the entire community.

  2. Educational demonstration: the recorded lore and history would be displayed through local websites, displays and other venues and provide information about Amesville and its culture to students, residents and non-residents alike.

  3. Support for local businesses: local sponsorships and participation in concerts, classes and other events and would by default boost image and services of local merchants.

  4. Positive community self-image: the Amesville project would bring attention to an innovation and creative project in Amesville that would bring more positive attention to our community and our local history.

What is your favorite thing about your town?

Amesville is perhaps best known for the Coonskin Library. At an 1803 town meeting (held to discuss roads) settlers talked about their desire for books and their lack of money to pay for them. Most of the business was done by barter, so little money was in circulation. However, the surrounding forest had pelts that could be sold in the East to buy books. In the spring of 1804, Samuel B. Brown and Ephraim Cutler went east to bring back books for the town. Fifty-one books—mostly on religion, travel, biography, and history—were purchased for $73.50. These books were passed from home to home until Ephraim Cutler was elected librarian in 1804.

Amesville was also part of the Underground Railroad. There are several remaining homes that were part of this path to freedom. Local information about this history is mostly oral history from residents that have lived in the area all their lives.

The sense of community is the best part of Amesville. On June 29, 1998, a 500-year flood destroyed 50% of the businesses and 15% of the housing stock in town. It was a devastating blow, but the community rallied and cleaned the town, supported their neighbors, and started to rebuild homes and businesses. Last year, twenty years after the flood, the residents gathered to have a pot-luck dinner and celebrate the community spirit that helped everyone survive the flood and begin to thrive again.

What is the biggest challenge your town faces, and what are you doing to address it?

With a lack of economic opportunity, many young people get a chance at higher education and never return to the area. We are trying to create new opportunities through arts, history, tourism and culture that make Amesville more vibrant. These elements can make for a deep and rich lifestyle for those wishing to retire or for young people wanting a diverse, unique community. When paired with the natural beauty of Amesville (hills for hiking, rivers for canoeing, great places for camping) it can become a thriving community again.


Photo by Ryan Flett

Nelson, British Columbia

Entry submitted by: Tammy Everts, Anna Purcell, Rik Logtenberg, Keith Page, John Paolozzi, and Paula Kiss.

At Strong Towns, we believe that local government is a platform for strong citizens to collaboratively build a prosperous place. How are residents in your town involved in shaping its future? How do residents’ experiences, struggles, and concerns directly inform the projects undertaken by local government? Provide one or more examples.

Nelson is a community of super volunteers who operate dozens of highly active non-profit organizations, societies, and co-ops dedicated to everything from housing, poverty reduction, arts, sports, food security, outdoor activities, and environmental stewardship. These grassroots efforts lead to significant civic involvement with local government. Citizens with experience in these areas serve on a range of committees that advise the city on topics such as planning, cultural development, housing, recreation, policing, and library services.

Once per month, City Council holds a Committee of the Whole (COTW) meeting, which allows individuals and organizations to make a presentation. While no voting occurs at these meetings, a topic may be referred to city staff for further study, or sent directly to council for debate. COTW meetings are always well attended and often serve as the seed for city initiatives, including plans for:

Nelson is a community of super volunteers who operate dozens of highly active non-profit organizations, societies, and co-ops.
  • Active transportation

  • Downtown redevelopment

  • Affordable housing

  • Short-term rentals

  • Laneway housing

  • Urban farming

  • Parking reforms

  • Corporate greenhouse gas reduction

  • Land-redevelopment projects in underutilized districts

A recent COTW saw a group working to establish Nelson as a tech hub approach the city for support with an innovation space they are building. At another COTW, a recently established cycling non-profit offered to assist the city with the implementation of the active transportation plan. While there are countless examples of citizen engagement in Nelson, one of the most sweeping was the development of the city’s Path to Sustainability 2040 plan, which now serves as a guide for all subsequent planning documents. Path to 2040 was created through a highly collaborative and iterative process and sets direction for building cultural strength, healthy neighbourhoods, robust ecosystems, prosperity, and resilience.

At Strong Towns we believe that financial solvency is a prerequisite for long-term prosperity. What steps has your community taken to ensure its financial security? Do local leaders adequately do the math on new investments proposed in your town to ensure that they’ll be able to afford them now and afford their maintenance in the future?

Going back many years, Nelson City Council has set and maintained strategic objectives for financial management. These include:

  • Maintaining prudent financial management policies regarding land management, asset replacement and long-range planning and budgeting, so that taxpayers remain confident that tax dollars are being spent wisely.

  • Renewal of the assets of the City’s major utilities in a cost-effective manner. For example, between 2005 and 2018, the City replaced 27 km of its 71 km of water lines at a cost that has been between 30%-50% less than projected in its water master plan. This was due largely to the decision to use its own forces to complete the work. The City is now in the enviable position where its major utilities are being funded and renewed in a sustainable funding model.

Nelson is also in the enviable position of owning its own electrical and internet utilities. Nelson Hydro is a 16MW facility that supplies most of the city’s power at a rate slightly higher than than the rest of the province ($1.24 per month for average household), but also provides the city with a dividend of at least $3 million per year. Nelson Fibre delivers high-speed internet service to city facilities in the downtown core (city hall, library, police services), allowing the city to save approximately $100,000 per year, and to generate the same amount in revenue through leases to businesses.

We’ve also developed new sources of revenue by contracting out the General Manager of Nelson Hydro and the City’s Chief Financial Officer to other communities. Many smaller communities in our region struggle with maintaining public sector accounting requirements, so rather than employ their own staff at considerable expense, they’ve outsourced this task to Nelson.

Council has limited tax and fee increases to the level of inflation, while reducing debt and building reserves. A recent audit by the Auditor General for Local Government found that “Nelson has dealt effectively with the modest growth and development pressures it has faced and has used shared services and collaborative arrangements with other local governments to deliver value for its residents.” Auditor General Ruth said, “It’s my hope that our audit report will bring attention to what the City of Nelson is doing and encourage other local governments to consider similar practices.”

If we took a walking tour through your town, what would we see? How does your community use its land productively to promote long-term financial resilience?

Nelson is bounded by mountains and a lake. Land is at a premium here, so it is typically well used, though we have a number of districts in transition. We have a tight, busy downtown core bordered on three sides by residential neighbourhoods, and on the remaining side by a railway and industrial area near the lake. This is a leftover from the city’s logging/mining past when the lake and railway were primary means of transportation.

The downtown is active day and night, with considerable pedestrian traffic coming in from outlying and residential areas. (More on that later.) At any given time, there might be, at most, one or two vacant storefronts, which is both a good and bad thing. Great because it means Nelson has a healthy downtown. Bad, because it’s often challenging for businesses to find retail space.

Nelson is in the enviable position where its major utilities are being funded and renewed in a sustainable funding model.

Nelson also owns its own electrical and internet utilities. Nelson Hydro supplies most of the city’s power at a rate slightly higher than than the rest of the province, but also provides the city with a dividend of at least $3 million per year.

We have four primary residential neighbourhoods in Nelson—Uphill, Fairview, Rosemont, and the North Shore—each with its own flavour and attractions. The oldest is Uphill, which borders directly on the downtown and features many beautiful character homes built onto the mountainside in relatively high density. Uphill is also home to a community garden that serves the local food bank. Fairview is a flatter neighbourhood (a mercy for seniors and people with mobility issues), with easy access to Lakeside Park and the beach. Rosemont is a great place for people looking for a bit more elbow room, with lower density lots. And the North Shore is a tiny section of the city on the lake, just across the bridge that locals affectionately call “BOB” (aka Big Orange Bridge).

Many small businesses can be found throughout these neighbourhoods, as well as an ever-increasing number of remote workers who have moved to the area. All are within walking/cycling distance to nearby hiking and mountain biking trails which ring the city.

The aforementioned light industrial area has been the topic of considerable discussion since the development of the Path to Sustainability 2040 document. With little room left to build in the downtown, or residential neighbourhoods, this light industrial area represents the next opportunity for growth in Nelson.

Still in the early stages, one section of this district that is closest to the downtown has been re-branded “Railtown” and has been the subject of intensive public consultation culminating in a Neighbourhood Action Plan. The vision for this neighbourhood is to see the remediation of brownfields, and make it home to new businesses in the retail, tourism, tech, and light industrial sector, as well as live/work residential in close proximity to the downtown core. While still quite raw, some changes are already underway. The historic CPR train depot has been sustainably restored and is now home to the Chamber of Commerce, and is soon to be home to the Tech Innovation Centre. The farmer’s market,located in a small park in this district, is also in the middle of a facelift that began last summer.

Tell us about your community's local economy. Who are the key players, big and small, and how do they help your town to be financially strong and resilient? What local businesses are you most proud of?

Forty years ago, Nelson suffered a series of economic blows when the two largest employers ceased operation. The local wood mill closed, eliminating hundreds of jobs, just as the province closed David Thompson University due to decreasing enrollment. It was evident at that time that Nelson needed to diversify its economy.

Since then, Nelson has embraced tourism, supported the growth of the local college (Selkirk College, which also absorbed Kootenay School of the Arts), and seen considerable growth in retail, wellness, light manufacturing, and remote work.

While Nelson has an incredibly diverse range of privately owned businesses serving the community that deserve praise, there are a couple of unique business models—co-operatives and social enterprises—that deserve mention here. Wherever the local market might be too small for entrepreneurs to risk developing a new business, co-ops and social enterprises have stepped in to fill this niche.

One of the best examples is the Kootenay Co-op. Launched in 1975 as a volunteer-run food buying club to provide an alternative to traditional grocery stores, the organization has grown into a thriving business. After outgrowing their original space, in 2012 the Co-op purchased a former industrial site in the downtown, remediated the land, and built a 21,000 square foot store that includes a 54-seat cafe and a teaching kitchen. To help cover the development costs of the new operation, they included 54 residential units above the store. The Co-op is one of the area’s larger employers, and delivers an incredible range of organic and locally grown food.

Another success story in this sphere is the Nelson Civic Theatre. Eight years ago the local cinema went out of business. There were attempts to restart the theatre, but all failed. When a local group formed a non-profit association and approached the city to repurpose the space as a climbing gym (the cinema is housed in a city-owned building), there was concern that there would never again be a movie shown in Nelson. So a group formed the Civic Theatre Society, organized over 200 volunteers, raised over $200,000, and refurbished the cinema as a fully digital theatre showing a mix of arthouse films, documentaries, and mainstream movies six nights a week. The Civic Theatre Society also helped direct attention to the local climbing group’s fundraising efforts to build a what is now a very successful indoor climbing gym—dubbed The Cube—in an underutilized space at Selkirk College.

What transportation options exist in your town for people of varying ages, abilities, and means? How easy is it to live in your town without regular access to a car? What transportation investments has your town recently made or is it in the process of making?

If ever a place was located in the boondocks, it’s Nelson. Located equidistant between Vancouver and Calgary, Nelson is an eight-hour drive from those large Canadian urban centres. The regional airport in nearby Castlegar is nicknamed “Cancelgar” as nearly 15% of all flights are cancelled due to inclement weather. Train service was discontinued decades ago, and less than six months ago, Greyhound cancelled all routes throughout BC.

With such a situation, you’d think owning a car would be a necessity. It’s not. According to Stats Canada, 1,420 Nelsonites (13% of our population) walked or cycled to work in Nelson in 2015. By comparison, just 4% of all British Columbians report walking or cycling to work. The Nelson-Kootenay Carshare Co-op allows people affordable access to a vehicle when they need one, helping reduce the number of cars on the road. And Kootenay Rideshare brings the Nelson tradition of hitchhiking into the 21st century with an app that provides riders and drivers with a more reliable and safe way to share rides. Electric bike ownership is also surging. (Have we mentioned that Nelson is built on the side of a mountain?)

Local transit is also a great way to get around. Inner-city routes don’t run as often as riders would like, but increasing route frequency in a town of 11,000 has proven challenging. But intra-city transit is excellent. You can ride from the northern tip of the region (Nakusp) into Nelson (150km) for under $9. Riders with disabilities, or those traveling for health reasons, can do it for $4. HandyDART offers door to door service for those with permanent or temporary disabilities.

How easy is it to become an entrepreneur or a small-scale developer in your town? What kinds of support are available for a resident who wants to open a business or build on a small vacant lot?

How easy is it to become an entrepreneur? For a small town eight hours away from large population centres, not bad. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Nelson, and attracts the sort of person who first and foremost value quality of life above profit, or at least as its equal.

Budding entrepreneurs with a good idea often turn to Community Futures for support. Community Futures is a nationwide non-profit specializing in development of businesses in rural communities. The Nelson-based office helps new businesses get off of the ground by providing small business loans, income assistance, and business advisors. To date, the organization has helped launch more than 1600 businesses in the Kootenay region.

Community Futures works closely with the Nelson and District Economic Development Partnership, an organization made up of the City of Nelson, and the Regional District of the Central Kootenay. The NDEDP has produced numerous studies and recommendations for how business development can be better supported in the region, and is behind the development of Nelson’s Tech and Innovation Centre.

The effort to bring tech to the forefront reflects the dramatic organic growth we’ve seen in this sector. Even without the Tech and Innovation Centre, Nelson was already becoming a tech hub. A number of start-ups have taken up residence in the area, with more popping up. Remote work in Nelson has served to foster the tech culture, and Nelson’s Tech and Knowledge Workers group on Facebook is 760 members strong. This particular group is also supported by KAST (Kootenay Association for Science and Technology), which runs well-attended, community-building events each month. The Centre, once complete, will further strengthen the city’s position as a regional leader in digital innovation.

In terms of building a business on a small vacant lot… you’d have to find one first. As we’ve mentioned previously, Nelson doesn’t have an abundance of vacant land for businesses at this time. The city is working hard to rectify this with the Railtown development, which should create a range of opportunities for new businesses not currently served by the spaces available in Nelson at this time.

What is your favorite thing about your town?

This is tough to narrow down. Nelson is nestled in a beautiful valley on a gorgeous lake. It has a rich history, and wonderful heritage buildings. We have an abundance of hiking/biking trails, great skiing, beaches, restaurants, businesses and services. These are all wonderful, of course, by what makes Nelson truly special is its culture, which is a weird mix of notorious laid-backness mixed with a can-do attitude where hunters and hippies all get along (mostly).

Wherever it’s simply not viable for entrepreneurs to meet our community’s needs, social enterprises and grassroots organizations step up to fill the gap. The examples are almost too numerous to list.

  • Arts organizations abound, supporting three galleries in town, that host regular events.

  • The Capitol Theatre, (re-built and run primarily by volunteers), is a centre for live performances.

  • The Civic Theatre brings in at least 50 indie films and docs on top of the usual Hollywood fare.

  • Countless music and arts festivals.

  • A climbing society runs the local gym, as well as maintains numerous climbing sites throughout the region.

  • A mountain biking trail association maintains hundreds of km of trails in the area.

  • The community radio station is run by volunteers and hosts a diverse range of programming.

  • Sports organizations provide a huge range of options to keep adults and kids busy.

  • Non-profits offer countless services to those who need help.

Combine this with an excellent range of shops and restaurants, and you have a really wonderful place to live.

What is the biggest challenge your town faces, and what are you doing to address it?

There are a few. Some have been a challenge for a while, while others are new. Climate change has dramatically increased the risk of wildfire and presents future transportation challenges. But if you were to ask around town, the biggest issue for years has been housing.

Nelson is a highly desirable place to visit and live, [with] some of the most expensive rental and real estate costs in the province, outside of major urban centres.

The result is a town of 11,000 dealing with problems usually faced by cities 100 times our size. But we’re not taking these problems lying down. We’re addressing them on a number of fronts.

Nelson is a highly desirable place to visit and live, especially for younger folk. While most small rural communities are in population decline, Nelson is growing. We have four public elementary schools, several private and charter schools, a middle school and a high school—and all are operating at full capacity. Abundant mountain biking trails, beach life, and a healthy music scene attract visitors in the summer, and incredible skiing brings them back (or keeps them here) in the winter. The result is a vacancy rate of nearly zero, and some of the most expensive rental and real estate costs in the province, outside of major urban centres.

This puts considerable pressure on the city’s most vulnerable populations, creates challenges for businesses looking for employees, and increases traffic as many who work in Nelson are forced to live in nearby communities and commute into town. The result is a town of 11,000 dealing with problems usually faced by cities 100 times our size. But we’re not taking these problems lying down. We’re addressing them on a number of fronts.

One local non-profit in particular has made an incredible dent in the housing crisis. Since 1974, Nelson Cares Society has worked towards a vision of a fairer, more socially just community by providing housing and employment to those most in need. Recently, the organization made a few giant forward leaps in tackling our local housing crisis with the approval of two major developments, which will provide 130 new units of affordable housing. Both projects have been years in planning and will break ground this spring.

Another project by a private developer will create 125 assisted living units for seniors on a downtown lot that has been vacant for years.

Nelson has long taken the approach that any new high-density housing is good housing, as the creation of new housing units will serve everyone’s interests. With an influx of 255 units over the next two years, we anticipate at least some relief on the housing front.

While the City has been involved with approval for all three of those projects, it has also been working to make bylaw changes to help on the housing front as well. Nelson’s planning department has increased lot density, reduced parking requirements, lowered utility rates for secondary suites, and most recently, made laneway housing [Accessory Dwelling Units] considerably easier to build. The City has also implemented a short-term rental bylaw to better regulate the use of sites like Airbnb, so that the city can enjoy the benefits of accommodation rental innovation while mitigating the problems it sometimes creates.


ROUND 1 VOTING IS NOW CLOSED.

Voting is weighted so that Strong Towns member votes account for half of each town's score and non-member votes account for the other half.