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Heritage District open house draws many questions from crowd

crowd sits and listens and asks questions about the Heritage Conservation District.

The town's proposed heritage conservation district drew many questions from the crowd that attended the open house Monday evening at the Libro Centre.

Amherstburg's proposed heritage conservation district is being worked on by consultants from MHBC Planning, Urban Design & Landscape Architecture as well as the town's heritage planner Adam Coates.

Nick Bogaert from MHBC said it is a two-phase process that is being worked on with research having been done to define a study area, with that study area currently including much of the downtown core from the river to streets like George, Seymour, Brock and King. Bogaert said they are doing research on what is in the study area and finding out what qualities are there pertaining to a possible heritage conservation district. There is also an area along the Dalhousie St. area inclusive of the Belle Vue mansion.

Rachel Neiser and Dan Currie from MHBC were also on hand Monday night to answer questions. Over 50 people attended the open house in the Libro Centre's downstairs community room, with a question and answer session lasting roughly one hour.

Currie said the firm has worked on many heritage districts across Ontario, some are more policy driven while others have more of a guideline feel.

“Most are about what you should do, not what you must do,” he said.

Bogaert said districts offer a “level of guidance” for homeowners on what is being sought to fit in a neighbourhood inside of a district. Coates pointed out that as of Jan. 1, 2025, provincial regulation changes state that any properties of interest not actually designated are in danger of being exposed to demolition.

Currie indicated that if a property is designated in a heritage conservation district, it receives a level of protection. Coates had stated in a prior interview that properties would be classified as contributing or non-contributing properties.

Heritage committee chair Simon Chamely brought up interior or exterior work that would be covered as part of a district with Coates confirming that it would only apply to the exterior of a home. Streetscapes and public property would also fall under the guise of a district.

Questions included whether there is a fee for a heritage permit, with Coates saying there would not be. Currie said routine maintenance to a home likely would not require a heritage permit.

“It's all about the character,” said Currie. “This process is to maintain the character.”

On the issue of commercial versus residential developments, Bogaert stated there would likely be different policies drafted for each. Local entrepreneur Lauri Brouyette noted commercial properties could lose money if there were delays in granting any sort of permits or permissions.

There would be a set of policies for existing homes and new builds, Currie stated, adding zoning often covers such matters. New developments would often be encouraged to fit within the character of a neighbourhood, though builders would have the freedom to build something more contemporary.

“It has to fit,” he said.

Traffic flow was asked about but the public was told it likely would not be part of a heritage conservation district. Traffic patterns are usually adjusted through other methods, Coates stated.

The consultants and the heritage planner said reasons to enact a heritage conservation district would include whether an area is worth protecting, to provide a set of “guidelines to manage change” and offer a level playing field, protect a sense of community and even to bolster economic development.

Currie said there are “teeth” in heritage conservation district policies, some that can be appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal should a landowner object.

Local resident Karen Gyorgy said she has a heritage home and doesn't know if the town would go ahead with an incentive plan, but noted other homeowners could be interested in incentives to maintain their heritage homes. She said she is proud of her home and is already willing to preserve it.

Other questions pertained to what was not included in the study area, including the General Amherst High School building and Laird Ave. Coates suggested he would work on researching the former high school, with the facade and murals making it a property of interest.

On the issue of Laird Ave., Coates said properties of interest, the town's original layout and other factors went into the study area and he noted many homes are already well taken care of there. He said the town could come back and do a study there, if requested, with Currie adding municipalities are not restricted to one heritage conservation district.

Currie added if no major projects are planned for a home in a heritage conservation district, nothing would happen regarding the home and the homeowners.

“If you are not working on anything major, it will likely not affect you,” he said.

The consultants and town administration promised more public open houses as the process continues, with Coates adding there is a chance for input on the Talk the Burg website. The first phase is anticipated to come before town council in late spring or early summer before work goes into the second phase.

Heritage District open house draws many questions from crowd

By Ron Giofu


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