by Joan Levesque
John Edwards chaired the meeting on behalf of Council. Approximately 60 to 70 people attended the meeting with a large majority being property owners. Edwards noted the meeting was primarily for the 300 property owners in the Study area affected by the building moratorium. He also noted there were in fact two issues which many were confusing together and quite understandably so. The first issue is the Heritage District Study itself. The second and the one which has generated the most controversy is the recently passed Building Moratorium Bylaw which prevents construction projects on slightly less than 300 properties from proceeding The Guest speaker was Andrew Jeanes of the provincial Ministry of Sport, Recreation and Culture (Heritage Division) from Kingston.
Mr. Jeanes gave a presentation and talk about what heritage districts are all about. There are well over 100 in the Province. Most of the pictures in the presentation were of commercial properties in downtown cores. He explained what heritage entails. He noted that Heritage Districts do not stop development but they guide development such that new buildings fit in to the defined character of the area. He noted that for many communities this was a key part of economic development and cited Seaforth, Ontario as one such town where the benefits are evident. Mr. Jeanes noted that many communities use municipal grants to defray extra costs of work due to heritage expectations. After his talk Mr. Edwards welcomed anyone with questions to raise their hands.
First question was asked why were ALL residents that are affected by the Heritage Moratorium Bylaw not informed about their area being so designated before the Moratorium Bylaw was passed. The question was not answered other than Mr. Edwards indicating there was a ‘spirited debate’ on the topic at Council. Others at the meeting also took umbrage at Council’s non-consultation with them and felt abused by Council’s so-called ‘process’.
In addition there was concern that not all citizens received letters advising of the of the meeting. It was asked if this is just a way of trying to try stop Enduru. No answer was given by the pro-Moratorium Bylaw Councillors present. Mr. Jeanes advised that moratorium bylaws had been used in other municipalities but they were not frequent and generally caused or resulted in a negative atmosphere. Clearly, the majority of those at the meeting felt they are being used by Council to get at Enerdu.
It was asked how Council came to the conclusion Coleman Island was included. Mr. Edwards indicated it was a recommendation from the Town’s Heritage Committee. He further indicated he would be pleased to discuss in more detail with the Coleman Island residents present after the meeting (which he did).
It was asked why one side of Princess St is now heritage and the other side is not. Mr. Edwards indicated the Heritage District Consultant had the same question and it is unlikely to be the case in the final recommended area.
A resident said we have a derelict home across from us, can it be torn down and re-built and the answer was, NO, there is a freeze on for one year! Mr. Jeanes indicated that if it is deemed unsafe it might be able to be torn down.
Mayor Levi said Council is taking jobs away from a local contractor who wants to demolish the house and re-build and keep his guys working all winter. Mr. Levi stated the town turned down 5 building permits this week alone already and another person only wants to put a carport on and they cannot. Mayor Levi stated the community is all in agreement with the heritage area concept but not to freeze the properties of people that MAY or MAY NOT be included in the final recommended area for a period of up to one year.
Edwards explained there are 300 properties in the original study area but that it will likely not be the case in the end. The heritage consultants are carefully using their professional expertise to define the final recommendations.
Edwards indicted Council had a only received 3 to 4 written complaints about the Moratorium Bylaw. He advised us to send letters or email to council explaining your positions as is the case with any and all issues.
The clear majority at the meeting said they want the Moratorium by-law ‘demolished’ and rescinded. Many attendees were very upset that their only recourse, at this point, is to appeal to the OMB and were blaming Council for this needless and potentially expensive endeavour. Mayor Levi committed to call a special Council meeting and see if Council would rescind the Moratorium Bylaw. (The meeting has been called for Tuesday, Oct. 21, 6:00pm)
Bottom line that most people at the meeting agree with is: 1. Council is only doing the Moratorium Bylaw to stop Enerdu and the other property owners feel abused! 2. Downtown core is Heritage for sure, but not the whole area Council has identified and 3. Do not under any circumstances freeze the town of the areas affected.
Mayoralty candidate Shaun McLaughlin did not attend the meeting. Council candidates Waters, Praamsma, Warland also did not attend. All other candidates attended.