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Heritage Conservation District open house to be held next Monday


Adam Coates, the town’s heritage planner, said it is a two-stage process and they are currently nearing the end of the first phase.

 

The Town of Amherstburg is hosting an open house next Monday evening to discuss a proposed heritage conservation district.


A Heritage Conservation District Study was reviewed by the town’s heritage committee last month but the public will get a chance to review the study, the area that has been looked at and provide their input on the plan and its study area.


Adam Coates, the town’s heritage planner, said it is a two-stage process and they are currently nearing the end of the first phase. The consultant MHBC have done fieldwork and have been busy compiling a study, with Coates adding gathering public input at the open house is part of that.


“They are starting to understand the characteristics in the study area and they are going to make recommendations to the heritage committee and to council,” Coates explained.


The boundaries of the heritage conservation district (HDC) may not necessarily mirror the current study area, he noted.


“Beyond just preserving old buildings, a heritage conservation district safeguards the very essence of our community’s identity. Governed by municipal bylaws under the Ontario Heritage Act, each district is a living legacy of our past, present and future,” said Coates. “Luckily, this town is steeped in history.”


Coates stated the study area’s protection is “crucial amidst provincial legislative changes. These changes, aiming to address housing challenges, risk our town’s character. Without HCD designation, many culturally significant properties could face demolition by 2025, leaving no room for community input.”


A loss of such structures could lead to the erosion of a sense of place and community, he added.


An HCD designation is “about cherishing our community’s charm and character for generations to come” with properties falling under one of two categories – contributing properties and other properties. The HCD would outline guidelines around “change management” with Coates noting the HCD doesn’t just apply to private property, but public property as well. Mature trees and width of streets could be encompassed in an HCD, should one receive final approval by town council.


An HCD would involve the exterior of properties, but not apply to the interior of a building. Coates said contributing properties and other properties would each have policies governing exterior work, such as alterations, additions or building something new.


“Not every house, just because it’s old, is a contributing property,” he said. “That’s something the consultant is vetting.”


Regular maintenance and such things as skylights and evestroughs, landscaping, fencing and other upgrades could fall under exemptions and not be governed under a district. A “heritage permit” would not be necessary for such work and exemptions would be defined in the HCD.


“Despite common misconceptions, research from both sides of the border suggests that being part of a heritage district is a boon for property values. Take, for example, the University of Waterloo’s Heritage Resources Centre findings. Their study revealed that properties within heritage conservation districts not only maintain their value but often experience more stable appreciation compared to neighbouring areas.”


HCDs have guidelines covering exterior changes to buildings and landscapes, he added, but Coates maintained “HCD guidelines serve to preserve our community’s unique character and heritage.” He compared regulations to building codes, fire codes, property standards bylaws and conservation authority regulations, adding “while it might seem like extra red tape, it’s all part of ensuring our neighbourhoods maintain their charm and historical significance for generations to come.”


The second phase of the process is to turn the study into a formal plan and implement it with policies and guidelines.


The April 15 open house is at the Libro Centre from 5-7 p.m. with informal presentations from the consultant at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. A survey will be up for a month on the Talk the Burg website.

Heritage Conservation District open house to be held next Monday

By Ron Giofu

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