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Belle Vue Conservancy urges manor, one acre of land remain public


Belle vue Historical Site

 

The Belle Vue Conservancy (BVC) remains active in urging residents to vote in a Talk the Burg survey about the site and that public ownership of the manor remain.


Conservancy members Robert Honor, Debra Honor, Mary Anne Adam and Bonnie Deslippe continue to emphasize the BVC’s view the property, specifically the 200-year-old mansion and a one-acre piece around it, stay in public hands. An ongoing survey on the property and the Amico-Loop proposal remains active through March 6.


“The Conservancy recognizes that a town the size of Amherstburg requires a means to fund the vision of Belle Vue’s restoration and its ability to retain it as a historical public space, preserving it for current use and future generations,” the BVC said in a statement.


The BVC members stated they learned of the option for total private ownership of the land when the bid was submitted and the proposal for hotel rooms, spa, pool, community space and residential development was made public. They don’t oppose such uses for the property, but want at least the manor to remain in public hands.


The town “should make every effort to sell a significant portion of the land, at market value. The renovated Belle Vue would then stand proudly as a public asset and regional showplace,” the BVC maintains.


Robert said the group wants public access maintained in partnership with the proponents so the business can be developed and the manor itself stay with the town.


The town bought the property for $1.1 million in 2016. The BVC, which considers itself to be a “fundraising arm” to protect and restore the manor, helped fundraise for a new roof.


“As a national historic site, it has value to all Canadians,” said Robert.


According to the BVC, they have obtained an estimation that 8.6-acre property carries an approximate valuation of $1 million per acre. Adam indicated if the land was sold and the money used to fix the house, “we’re OK with that.”


The crux of our concerns is the ownership of the building,” said Deslippe.


The BVC members also want to see it restored sooner rather than later, fearing demolition by neglect if there is a delay.


The BVC is “hesitant’ in meeting with administration and the proponents “as we do not want such a meeting interpreted that we are in full support of the Amico/Loop expression of interest. Contrary to what had been promised by administration, the Conservancy was not consulted in vetting the EOIs received by the town.” If the entire property, including the manor, is in private hands, “this is in complete opposition to the goals and values of the BVC.   We do want to work with administration and are promoting the town survey regarding Belle Vue, encouraging the public to voice their opinions.”


“It’s not unheard of for publicly owned heritage building with a private business operating out of it,” said Robert. “It’s a question of legalities.”


“The devil is in the details,” said Deslippe.Amico vice president of development Cindy Prince indicated at an October meeting of town council that the firm was open to a “really long-term lease” but a shorter term lease wouldn’t make financial sense for the proposal.


During the meeting last fall, Prince and business partner Troy Loop presented their vision to town council. She said restoration of the manor could be done “very effectively” with the two-storey semi-detached units being on private streets with “enhanced walkability” to paths already in place. The homes would not have attached garages or driveways, with a desire not to have driveways “penetrate” the sidewalks. Garages could be purchased in nearby areas of the site, she indicated.


The proponents’ said they are attempting to keep the grounds around the manor intact, restore gardens and offer use of the “attached gazebo” at the south end of the building for public use and to let the public know “they are always welcome.”


Prince said it was a “unique opportunity” that would bolster tourism in the area.

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Belle Vue Conservancy urges action

1 Comment


Guest
Mar 01

Sell this place and put our money back into the town's funds. No more upkeep and the owner now pays the respective amount of property taxes, which I assume would be fairly high. The city should never have purchased it in the first place. Heritage Laws will protect the building, the city does not need to 'protect' it.

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