"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Monday, 6 July 2009

Red Tape Tangle

An e-mail went out to members of the Town's Heritage Committee on July 2nd, requesting availability for a special meeting on July 13th. The Committee was not scheduled until September. Fortunately five members are available so a meeting can proceed.

The committee has eight members. Two are Councillors. Five members are needed to form a quorum.

Application has been made to demolish a building on the Willow Farm property. It is listed by the town as "Of Interest" It's not "Designated".

According to the Heritage Act, the Municipality has sixty days to make a decision .If not decided in that time, a permit must be granted.

Last week, I had a call from Martin Paivio a former Councillor and a builder, inquiring about another property. This one I know. Thirty years ago, I learned the interior was in a seriously dilapidated state. Plaster on the walls was bulging and cracked. Old plaster has a bad smell. There is nothing appealing about the exterior either.

The new owner plans to build a School.

Imagine having made the decision to invest in a property ,demolish a crumbling ,malodorous old building to build anew and then discover the Heritage Committee will not be meeting for two months so your application can't even be considered for more than sixty days.

Imagine, the finances, the designs, the contractors that had to be lined up to make such a project feasible. Then being told; " Sorry, the committee won't be meeting for two months"

In the case of the second building, the problem could have been avoided. It's been for sale for at least twenty years. It took that long for the right buyer to come along. It's on Yonge Street. It's one of the many blights on that thoroughfare. .

So...how could this be ?

Well, we did it.

We had a heritage planner for a while who, in the heady excitement of the new Heritage Act, recommended listing everything in sight. Former Councillor Ron Wallace, a member of the Heritage Committee told me, when I questioned the practice, they would stick the label on me too if I would just stand still long enough.

We used to be able to take shots like that at each other in a political exchange without Vesuvius erupting and calling in lawyers..

So, why should I care? I didn't support the foolishness.

Well because it's not in the town's interest and it's not in the property owner's interest. If it isn't the function of a politician to see both sides of a situation, then I don't know if we even have a function.

I phoned Martin Paivio this morning and alerted him to the special meeting being held on July 13th.

I e-mailed the Chief Building Official and brought attention to the matter. I may even go to the committee meeting and point out the problem of listing every old bachle of a building as of "Interest" and senselessly delaying renewal for weeks or months as a consequence.Or worse. losing private investment altogether. It has happened. Repeatedly.

I may even quote from the consultant , to whom we paid $75k to study the downtown and made an interim presentation a couple of weeks ago. He talked about giving" bonuses" to developers in return for extra resources to the municipality.

Dear Lord, we can't even give some of them permits in a reasonable time frame.


Anonymous said...

what's the difference between "of interest" and designated?

does "of interest" have the same weight?

sorry to ask a dumb question but what would be the point of just being "of interest" rather than 'designated" ...

Elizabeth Bishenden said...

I think that if you look at Aurora and you actually think about its history, you'd have to say that the expansions in the late '50s-early-'60s and then again in the mid-80's and finally in the last five years were the really defining times in our town's story. The real "heritage districts" are well represented by the homes in Regency Acres, Timpson Drive, and Borealis Avenue. None of these streets are in "heritage districts", but all those time periods gave Aurora significant growth.

The C2 lands are the last residential development in Aurora. Why not slap a heritage designation on them as well? Those houses will be there in 100 years, won't they? Why not require their owners to preserve them in the manner they are built?

Our house is nearly 100 years old, and it narrowly missed being included in the "Olde Aurora NE Heritage District". It's not an architectural gem. A week after we moved in, we had some windows replaced. I heard the installer swearing a blue streak and I checked with him. His analysis? "These houses were built to be renovated."