Heritage, transit station issues left for new Orangeville Council

September 14, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

What was billed as something of a grand finale for the current members of Orangeville Council turned out to be anything but on Monday evening, with members essentially deferring two big community projects to the municipality’s next council.

First up on the agenda was the contentious issue surrounding the potential heritage designation of some 238 downtown century-old homes. This is a project that has been kicked around Council chambers since 2003, when two downtown residential neighbourhoods, with properties on Broadway, Zina, York, Bythia and First streets and First Avenue, were first identified as being suitable to be included in a heritage conservation district.

A heritage conservation district is defined as being a geographical area with a concentration of heritage resources with special character or historical association that distinguishes it from its surroundings. Orangeville’s cultural heritage value lies in its decorative 19th century commercial downtown and adjacent resident neighbourhoods, which Heritage Orangeville, a town committee that has pushed hard for designation, feels are important to protect.

A consultant was hired in 2015 to gather information, meet with area residents and put together a study to determine how suitable these neighbourhoods were for potential heritage designation. At a meeting in January, Lynda Addy noted there is a high degree of satisfaction within heritage conservation districts in Ontario. The idea, she says, is to implement guidelines to ensure the historical integrity of century-old neighbourhoods is maintained. Permits would then be required to make any major changes to the front exterior of buildings.

While there were supporters in attendance at Monday’s meeting, there were just as many local residents voicing their opposition to a move some see as completely restricting the rights of homeowners. Elizabeth Duke, who has been fairly outspoken in her opposition to a heritage designation, reaffirmed her belief that the whole process is “unnecessary”, stating, for the most part, residents are responsible enough to maintain their properties in a proper way.

Richard Oliver, who earlier this summer spoke to council about the positives of such a designation, was afforded another opportunity to discuss the benefits of a heritage conservation district – pointing to the success of the town’s other heritage zone, which encompasses much of the downtown core, and has since 2002, as a prime example that they can work well.

York Street resident Karen Jones noted the overwhelming majority of residents along York and Bythia streets were in favour of a heritage designation. While she was initially concerned about what she perceived as restrictions associated with a heritage neighbourhood, Ms. Jones liked the fact it would protect older neighbourhoods against potential infill developments.

“Orangeville has seen development and infill at an alarming rate. It can happen in well-established neighbourhoods with large lots, just like ours. In Toronto, there have been many instances where modern infill has changed the flavour of Victorian-home neighbourhoods. It’s happening everywhere,” Ms. Jones said. “I don’t feel so much threatened as to how a heritage conservation district will impact my personal property as I do knowing what kind of impact not having one can have on my neighbourhood.”

In one final attempt to sway her colleagues, Councilor Sylvia Bradley talked about the importance of maintaining the character of its “historic” neighbourhoods.

“This proposed heritage conservation district is not something that is meant to be an imposition on homeowners on individual properties, it is meant to protect the neighbourhood from outside development. You can’t count on everyone just doing the right thing,” Coun. Bradley said. “I think a lot of people think we have a lot more tools in the toolbox than we actually have to protect our neighbourhoods.”

Mayor Jeremy Williams said he “feels strongly” that Orangeville’s heritage areas are worthy of protection, but also sees the flip side of the argument, where people don’t like being told what to do with their home.

“I understand both sides of the issue, and I think we need to continue this discussion. I don’t want this to come across as we’re throwing all this work in the garbage, but it’s got to be something that works for everyone who lives in the area. It needs to be something everyone buys into – that it is protecting the neighbourhood.”

In a last gasp attempt to push through a vote, Coun. Bradley asked if the district could be split in half – with Bythia Street and York Street, whose residents are seemingly in favour, being designated, and Zina Street, whose residents, according to Coun. Nick Garisto, are almost completely against the idea, left out of the proposed district. But she did not receive the necessary secondary support for her motion.

In the end, Mayor Williams simply put forward a motion to receive the heritage conservation district study, stating this was an issue that would be left for the next council to resolve.

Transit station

Elsewhere on the agenda, Council was expected to push through a request for staff to come up with a design for its proposed transit transfer station on Centre Street.

The issue was discussed at great length on Aug. 13, when Council voted 4-3 to locate the transit hub in front of the county-owned Edelbrock Centre. That plan calls for an island to be installed on the street, alongside layby lanes. This design would allow for two-way bus traffic on Centre Street. Before work can go ahead, the Town would need to seek the County’s approval since this option would require encroachment on Dufferin County land. The issue was expected to go before County Council tonight.

However, there was some fresh controversy on Monday, with Mark Whitcombe, a member of the Orangeville Sustainability Action Team (OSAT), condemning council for agreeing to a site so close to the community food garden.

“I’m in a quandary over this issue. I support the need for a transit system in town, and I like the elegance of the butterfly route model that has been proposed, but I’m very much concerned about the location of this station and its proximity to the community food garden,” Mr. Whitcombe said. “With those buses idling, stopping and starting that close to the garden, which supplies vegetables to our food bank and lots of local restaurants… The health effects are well known. To me, this location is outrageous.”

He suggested the minimum Council should be looking to do, if they insist on moving forward with this site, is to move the community gardens approximately 50 metres to the west. Although, Mr. Whitcombe admits, that land is “some of the stoniest land in Orangeville” and would not be a reasonable place to put a garden.

Coun. Bradley asked that council consider deferring this issue, recommending that OSAT, Access Orangeville and those residing in the area be officially notified about this plan.

“A lot of the residents in the area have not been made aware of this plan. They were aghast to learn this could potentially be happening in their neighbourhood,” Coun. Bradley said. “This thing has not been approved by the County yet, yet here we are asking staff to spend money and put together an official design anyway. County Council is this week, it would be appropriate to bring this back to council after a decision has been made there.”

Coun. Don Kidd noted Centre Street was the “only logical location” for the town’s transit station, while Coun. Garisto stated a “great deal of work” had been put into this already. He asked that Council support a motion asking staff to put together a design. In the end, in the absence of Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock, the motion failed in a tie vote, with Messrs. Garisto, Kidd and Mayor Williams voting in favour and Councillors Bradley, Scott Wilson and Gail Campbell against.

The issue will likely be back before Orangeville’s next council, which has its inaugural meeting on Dec. 3, before the end of the year.

Councillor complaint

The final Orangeville council meeting of this term ended in the only way it really could – with plenty of fireworks.

With the clock edging ever closer to the 11 p.m. meeting deadline, Mayor Williams attempted to fly through the rest of the agenda so as to avoid having to schedule another meeting on Sept. 24.

Coun. Garisto was left enraged when the mayor blew by a topic in the correspondence portion of the agenda. According to Coun. Garisto, a local businessman was in attendance and had waited all night to have his say on an issue surrounding the erection of multiple banners at Petro-Canada on Broadway.

The banners had been placed on site several weeks ago, however they were found to have been in violation of one or more municipal bylaw. Whether he agreed with the businessman on the issue or not, Coun. Garisto stated the owner, listed as Sukhdev Songh Kandola, who he claims pays more than $50,000 a year in taxes, should have been afforded the opportunity to address council.

“I don’t think it’s right. We should have allowed the business owner to speak,” Coun. Garisto told the Citizen. “He is very upset. He has done a lot of good for our community, he has invested a lot of money in our community and for council and the mayor to disrespect him like, I don’t think it’s right. Mr. Kandola has every right to be upset.”

Council voted simply to receive the letter sent in by Mr. Kandola, asking that Council allow him to use the banners.

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