Proposed heritage designations getting mixed public reaction

July 20, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

If Monday’s public hearing regarding the Prince of Wales Heritage Conservation District Plan was anything to go by, it was clear that a select few local residents want no part of it.

The plan itself relates to the possible heritage designation of some 238 downtown area properties in Orangeville. The process was kick-started in December 2015 when the Town initiated the study of two century-old residential neighbourhoods in the community. The idea, says Coun. Sylvia Bradley, is to “protect the identity” of those neighbourhoods. For some of its residents, they simply see the plan as an infringement of their rights as property owners.

After spending the best part of 2 1/2 years working on this plan, Lynda Addy, a member of Heritage Orangeville, walked Council through its key elements on Monday (July 16). The study area, first identified by Council in 2003, covers properties on Broadway, Zina Street, York Street, Bythia Street, First Street and First Avenue.

Ms. Addy explained the plan outlined numerous objectives under three different categories – protect, monitor and change.

“I would say one of the big objectives of a heritage plan is to conserve contributing buildings and landscapes from inappropriate alteration and demolition. This really is where the biggest bang for your buck is achieved,” Ms. Addy said. “Plans like this would protect neighbourhoods from demolitions that may lead to less than desirable effects. For instance, in many heritage areas, lot sizes are very large. We’ve seen it happen where people buy up numerous lots, tear down the heritage homes and put up intense infill. We’ve seen many instances of that.”

Coun. Bradley pointed to the recent development of a 42-unit townhouse complex at 60 and 62 First Street as a prime example of what can happen if a developer plans to move into a neighbourhood that isn’t protected with a heritage designation.

As part of a Heritage Conservation District, homeowners in the area would need to seek approval for any proposed renovations on the front exterior of the building. Ms. Addy was clear that the “guidelines” apply only to that portion of the property and would not stop homeowners from making any changes to the inside of their home. She also noted homeowners would be free to complete any routine maintenance or repair work.

“Obviously, a lot of people feel having HCD affects property owners and that is true to a certain degree. We want to stress, however, that a HCD plan only addresses exterior alterations, mainly to the front façade of the building. It does not require property owners to restore their buildings or perform any kind of restoration work at all,” Ms. Addy said. “Property owners can make a wide variety of changes to their properties. No permit will be required for things such as painting, roofing, gardening and landscaping, rear patios and decks, small rear yard outbuildings and any interior renovations.”

For work that does fall under the HCD plan, homeowners would need to secure a heritage permit from the Town. These permits can be obtained at no cost.

“A heritage notification is required for alterations or replacement of windows, doors and decorative architectural features such as cornices, brackets, vergeboard and window and door surroundings,” Ms. Addy said.

As a part of the planning process, Ms. Addy held three public meetings earlier this year, taking place on May 29, May 31 and June 12. There were 12 individuals on hand at each of those meetings, with some of their thoughts, ideas and comments to be included in the final plan, which is set to be presented to Heritage Orangeville for final comments and endorsements shortly before coming back to Council for consideration on Sept. 10.

Coun. Don Kidd was the first member of Council to address Ms. Addy, taking her to task for what he perceived were several issues with the HCD document. He specifically brought up issues relating to garages, potential for property tax relief and several uses of vague language he believed could be misinterpreted in the future. At one point, Mayor Jeremy Williams had to step in and warn Coun. Kidd “not to personalize this”, which itself drew a passionate response.

“Excuse me, Mr. Mayor, but this is absolutely personal. You have people who live in a century-home, it’s their home. The heritage people are trying to tell them what they can and cannot do with their home. You may not see it that way, you can call it any colour you want, but it is their home and this is absolutely personal,” Coun. Kidd said.

Three residents of potentially affected properties came forward during the public meeting, with two going into great detail regarding why they don’t want to be included in any Heritage Conservation District.

David Kirk, who lives on Zina Street, echoed Coun. Kidd’s sentiments that this is, in fact, an incredibly personal issue, “about as personal as you can get.” He took aim at Ms. Addy specifically for the point she made about one of the main purposes of this plan focusing on the protection of the residents.

“When something is being imposed on you, can you really call it protection anymore?” Mr. Kirk asked. “In my opinion, it’s not protection. This is not protecting me at all. I live on a wonderful block in this beautiful town. I’ve been in my home for 31 years. All the homes on my block are well maintained and adhere quite closely to some of the suggestions made in this heritage plan. That’s all done because of pride of ownership, not because someone is dictating that it must be done simply because I live in a particular area.”

He added, “I hate to use this word, but I actually feel discriminated against simply because I live close to downtown. I’m not being held to the same standards as other homeowners in this community and I strongly believe that that’s wrong.”

Another resident of Zina Street, Elizabeth Duke, said she represents numerous neighbours who are very much opposed to this HCD plan.

“We oppose it primarily in three pillars. We believe it is unnecessary, we believe it will significantly inconvenience residents to whom the new rules would apply and we do not believe it’s in the best interests of our community,” she said.

Among her many concerns, Ms. Duke noted residents within this potential heritage area could be faced with serious financial consequences should they ever wish to sell their home. She believes homes with a heritage designation would be harder to sell and, as a result, could lead to a loss in value.

“It’s our belief that many people would not buy a house they know is a designated home. I, personally, would not do it. If given the choice, I would not have done it,” Ms. Duke said. “We’re already seeing, in Orangeville, the implications of this effort. I have here a listing for a century-home and this real estate agent, with 29 years of experience, lists the home as not being covered under designated status. It’s clearly pointed out as a positive feature of the home.”

She added, “If our homes are designated, best case it will take us longer to sell our home. There’s a smaller audience interested in purchasing designated homes, that’s just fact. It’s likely that we will lose money on our homes in value. I’ve seen examples where there has been hundreds of thousands of dollars in impact (across a neighbourhood).”

Coun. Nick Garisto said he “doesn’t like to impose on people what they don’t want” and believes, if Council were to move forward with this HCD plan, that’s exactly what they would be doing.

“I will vote against this when the time comes,” Coun. Garisto said.

As a member of Heritage Orangeville and an owner of a designated home herself, Coun. Bradley believes there has been a lot of misinformation and fear mongering spread throughout this process. She was keen to relay to those in attendance that joining a HCD would only be a positive thing for them and their neighbourhood moving forward, pointing to Orangeville’s downtown core as proof of that.

“Our downtown is what it is, in part, because it has been designated. It is protected. There is consistency and some level of control to try to make it, maintain it and retain it as a heritage area,” Coun. Bradley said. “You can have a guaranteed thing here with a heritage district, knowing your neighbourhood is protected. I live in a designated home and it has provided me with zero issues. I’m in the process of changing windows, we’ve painted, completed renovations on the front porch. We’ve never run into any problem.”

She added, “I hope that, as we go forward, everyone affected by this, Council members as well as residents, look through this and see what it is and what it isn’t. It isn’t something that’s going to hurt anybody. Once you understand what it is and what the guidelines are, you’ll see this can only be a positive thing.”

Mayor Williams was apprehensive to side one way or the other, noting that wasn’t Council’s job on the night. Instead, he listened to all sides of the argument, noting he was looking forward to the final plan coming back to Council for consideration in September. Then, he says, Council will have an important decision to make.

“We on Council have a responsibility to try and protect communities. Decisions come across not for today, it’s for tomorrow too. For the years to come. We have to navigate carefully so the wishes of residents in these areas are respected,” Mayor Williams said. “This is a challenge. It’s about finding that common ground (between protecting these beautiful buildings and respecting residents).”

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.