"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

Sunday 30 March 2014

Preservation of worthless relics..????

When I was re-elected  in 2003. I had been out  fourteen years. I had some catching up to do.

The Heritage Act  had been amended to  give municipalities authority to impose  heritage designation
 I wondered why . Change  never comes without pressure. The answer was not immediately obvious.

No time wasted  in Aurora  designating the north east quadrant.  I  thought it was a bit of a stretch
but it wasn't something I cared to argue. Owners who didn't want to be part were able to opt out.

No  controversy erupted.

The situation  with the south east  area is different.

Request  for  district designation came from one opposed to re-development.  Control  of the neighborhood was the obvious  objective.

The area includes Wellington Street and Victoria Street;  properties with different long-term uses expectations and  investment.

Opposition to heritage designation and all that entails quickly  became evident.

Carl Bray ,the Heritage Consultant  doing the "study" for the town, described opposition  as a
"significant minority"

 It was an interesting choice of words.

 Opposition was apparently  not  to be  taken seriously.

Subsequently opponents  organized and brought their arguments directly to Council's attention.

Whereupon accusations of fear-mongering and  spreading mis- information  quickly spread throughout the land.

It often happens when there's no  rebuttal.

The other eventuality is  the politicians' dance  of weave and bend and twist in the wind.

If there is insufficient intestinal fortitude to fulfill the role, it is  a pathetic sight to behold.

Now the controversy commands community attention.

The town budgeted $100,000  for the "study"  The contract was let for $67,000. Funds  came from general tax revenue.

It's not clear to me why.

The HeritageAct authorizes a municipality to impose heritage designation.

It's not clear to me why.

Authority  carries responsibility to  monitor and ensure a designated district is  restored and maintained in its authentic heritage  character.

Heritage  Designation  is registered against title of  every property in the district.

It's not policy...guideline ...or flexible option.  It's law.

It must be  enforced ...by  the corporation and  obeyed by private property owners.

We already have a heritage planner on the payroll. With two designated districts, monitoring and
enforcement will compel a new division within the corporation.

Inevitably, it will increase the tax burden.

Without as much as a by-your-leave or a smidgin of consultation.

Misinformation...lack of  communication... there's plenty  about.

There can be no doubt insurance on property will be impacted by cost to restore property
constructed a hundred years ago.

Mortgage financing  is not available without insurance to cover the risk.

Marketability is reduced by restrictions on use .

The corporation  does not benefit by maintaining old,inadequate,unsafe housing
on large lots, taking up more than their share of infrastructure, producing less than their share of assessment revenue to pay for fire protection, police protection and other services provided by the municipality, including violin and piano concerts by world renowned musicians and esoteric art shows.

The question of reducing numbers of councillors  and a ward system drew good response.
Better than the open house  on the joint facility the Mayor thought was  wildly successful.

We didn't even talk about how the town could practically be divided into wards.

Now let's hear from you about all these perishing heritage designations being undertaken
at the expense of the community at large and without support of the inmates.


Anonymous said...

I think they are wasting everyone's time and money. We have just seen the OMB deny Newmarket's Master Plan. That appeal must have cost plenty.

Anonymous said...

Aurora will be a sitting duck in the courts when they get sued by an individual who has inherited a property only to find they cannot sell it and need to sink a lot of money into a losing proposition.

Anonymous said...

If there were a simple way to turn Mr. Bray into a life-size bronze sculpture this is what should be done with him.

The work should then be placed on a plinth in a prominent place along the yet to be constructed Promenade. The pigeons could have their way with him - not quite Nelson.

The significant minority should ignore the whole thing.

If I understand my geography, the south-east quadrant of Aurora runs down to the Bloomington Road and contains many estate residential properties individually valued into several millions of dollars, not to speak of the Beacon Hall golf course. Would it become a Heritage Golf Course?

In addition there are great chunks of industry within this area. Will they become Heritage Industry?

Heritage designations should be restricted to individual buildings, not to entire quarter sections of a town. In Great Britain you will see an oval plaque on a building, indicating what famous or infamous person lived there and when. The greater part of London would be a "Heritage Building" if any of it were here in Aurora, mainly because it's old

I don't see why or how the desire to recognize the history of a building by installing a plaque, or even designating the entire building as being of heritage value should result in the kind of ruckus just seen on the part of residents of the south-east.

Our members of Council should think a little deeper before they speak or act. There is no need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a useless consultant's study when a little common sense would be preferable.

Christopher Watts said...

I think the main point here is "It must be enforced ...by the corporation and obeyed by private property owners."

Then why aren't the 3 properties from the Heritage Disneyland concept inside the North East Heritage District being enforced by the corporation or their property owners?

Horton Place, Readman House and Hillary House are the only 3 properties that are covered by the North East district west of Yonge Street.

Yet from the cost/benefit study we see:

Horton House is in need of $100,000+ in projected repairs.

It is also noted that:

"Additional costs will be incurred on items where an estimate is not provided.

Some unidentified costs reflect renovations or restoration items that will likely be
influenced by the property's heritage designation."

The Readman House was not subject to a building inspection – the interior is believed to be essentially gutted and no services are operations (electrical, water, gas).

This seems to be in contravention of the recently enacted heritage preservation bylaw, which I have been informed is unenforceable because there is a site plan from 2006 on the property.

So demolition by neglect it is.

The cost/benefit study didn't provide a building inspection of Hillary House but the town has confirmed it is currently operating without a change of use building permit.
I also found it in violation of Ontario Fire code as recently as its 2014 Annual General meeting. No Facilities Assessment has been done recently nor have the owners have not reported on the structures foundation, the roof is noted as in need of being replaced as they are financially sunk and therefore incapable of installing something as crucial as a security system.


With all of these inconsistencies it is hard to agree with the sub-committee member, who is also a member of H.E.A.T/Wells St.Neighbours/Neighbours of Town Park or whatever they are calling themselves this week, who believes a Heritage Conservation District in the South East is the "only" mechanism available to preserve heritage assets.

It's a joke, and the punch line / case study that needs to be revisited is $34 Catherine Street.

Anonymous said...

When are people going to learn to stay out of people's backyards?

Anonymous said...

There will be lawsuits brewing before then.

Anonymous said...

I hate to whine but why do Council keep authorizing outside studies of what they want to do while ignoring the weekly polls in the Auroran. Even if there is some technical flaw in those, it can't be worse than paid consultants.

Anonymous said...

“Obeyed by private property owners” my backside!! When the Town takes over my mortgage payments that’s when they can enforce whatever they want on my property! Until then all those tree hugging heritage/culture unemployed clowns can stay off my property.

Anonymous said...

I think Disney Heritage is dead in the water. The one owner simply needs to sell his house when he is ready to move & let the rest calcify. We used to visit Hillary & take guests there to support that group. No more. There are plenty of other places in the neighbourhood to take visitors and I am not including the pricey Centre.

Anonymous said...

The Promenade Plan from the past term is already having a negative impact on borrowing. Banks simply do not want or need the hassle.

Anonymous said...

"If I understand my geography..."

You don't. Before commenting, you should have looked at the boundaries of the proposed area.

Anonymous said...

I do not know if this is helpful. but by-laws in Aurora are complaint-driven. So if no one complains, there is not going to be an investigation or any charges for infractions. Hence you have nonsense like Mr K's trees or that infamous bus-in-the- driveway incident. Driven completely by complainants.

Anonymous said...

If Councillors Humfryes & Gaertner had it their way, Mr K would still be waiting for those trees to die. Even at the end, they voted against approval to let him get his place finished.