It should be an interesting time at Council tonight. Based on what may decided, while we may be preserving the "heritage" of Sandwich, we may also be at the beginning of a process that impacts the properties of thousands of Windsorites. It all has to do with our history, or so we will be told. But it really is much more as you shall find out below.
The purposes of the Ontario Heritage Act are very noble:
And we in Windsor are doing our part not only with respect to buildings but now to districts, with one being proposed being a huge one as well that impacts about 10,000 people!
Did you see the press release about Prado Place?
Windsor’s first Heritage Conservation District - the 200 block of Prado Place
With the passing of the by-law appeal period (March 11), City Council has now officially established Windsor’s first approved Heritage Conservation District (HCD), encompassing the 200 block of Prado Place. The Prado Place Heritage Conservation District was made possible by the support of the homeowners in the district.
The Ontario Heritage Act allows for designation of individual properties under Part IV of the Act and for the designation of groups of properties as Heritage Conservation Districts under Part V. The HCD designation will compel the City of Windsor to take the heritage value of the street into consideration when undertaking infrastructure projects.
The Prado Pace Heritage Conservation District is intended to preserve a streetscape that is unique in the City because of its 50-foot right-of-way and 16-17 foot pavement width, with mid-block landscaped island. There are ten original Town of Riverside street lamps along the block – the only cast iron streetlights that remain as installed in the former town. This, combined with its eclectic mixture of fine homes, overhanging shade trees, and landscaped front gardens, makes the 200 block of Prado Place a unique residential environment worthy of preservation.
That action seemed to make some sense. If that could be done for an area of one block, why not, as Sam said, "THINK BIG." In comes the request for the "Pie" area of Sandwich:
It is not for one block as in Prado but an area encompassing 3.2 square Kilometres including 2,616 properties with 4,000 dwelling units where 10,000 people live. Now that is some project.
The Motion for this is bizarre though…..remember they have just finished Prado. They want to know the process for designating Sandwich. DUH….Council just did it and they have to ask how again? What gives other than wasting more time. [Oh but there is more, much more, as you shall see]
The other very strange thing is to bring this Motion before Council before the Community has had the chance to express its opinion. On the City’s website it is written:
The Olde Sandwich Towne Community Task Force would like to obtain public input on the Issues Identified and the Initial Strategies and Actions developed. It is important for the community to have a voice in the planning process and to be involved in shaping the neighbourhood.
Thank you for all your answers and comments. Please return the completed questionnaire by April 7, 2006 to the City of Windsor's, Planning Department.”
How foolish of me. I forgot, this Mayor and Council do not really care what the public thinks. That is why we had the Tecumseh meeting in the last possible second and why we are waiting still for the consultant’s report from the border meeting last summer.
Here it is so obvious. Why couldn’t Council wait until after the Community spoke. There must be a reason to hurry!
I am not going to debate now the merits or disadvantages of designating an area as “heritage” or not. There are negatives, primarily:
“The Ontario Heritage Act gives municipalities the power to decide whether alteration, new construction or demolition can take place within a designated HCD. In making its decisions, the municipality should be guided by the provisions of the HCD district plan. [In other words, it can impact private property ownership rights negatively].
To do this for the City will cost us big dollars. For the study alone, we may have to hire a consultant at a cost of up to $50,000. There is no staff work program capacity in the Planning Department to do the study, there is no capital budget for it, the process may take years and we will need to create a bureaucracy to handle the needs of thousands of property owners when they want work done on their sites if the area is designated.
Wouldn’t you think the easy answer was to designate ONLY the key buildings as “heritage” under a different section of the Act rather than all of the "Pie" area of Sandwich so it does not impact every building. Not every building in that part of Sandwich is “heritage” anyway.
Of course, if you thought that, then you do not understand what this is all about.
You must have figured it out by now I am sure, when I mentioned the study area was “for lands located west of the Ambassador Bridge.”
Now I finally understood the big push over the past few months talking about Sandwich's history, and the unanimous approval of the Cultural project when even the Budgeteers were onside. It all fits like a glove now!
While it may also be historical, this looks like, in my opinion, another attempt by the City to put roadblocks to the border solution.
I am sure that it could be used to try to stop or delay the Ambassador Bridge Co. from building their Twinned Bridge if they were ever to build one which would be sited on “lands located west of the [existing] Ambassador Bridge.”
Just like what Eddie said in his Town Hall meeting in Sandwich when he sprung the idea of the Sandwich Development Commission. It would empower the Community allowing the Community the ability to stop the bridge from being built in a manner better than any zoning by-law could!
Or perhaps now, the target is DRIC depending on what they want to do with a bridge crossing, plaza and road system.
Oh well, Mr. Estrin can be hired to do this litigation too except he may have 2,616 land owners in the area who may not be too happy once the word gets out about what the City proposes to do!
PS. One teeny, tiny matter I just found out. Certain properties under the Heritage Act may be eligible under the Municipal Act for "tax reductions or refunds in respect of eligible heritage property." Does that mean that non-Sandwich taxpayers have to pick up the burden of those rebates?
"The amount of the tax reduction or refund provided by a local municipality in respect of an eligible heritage property must be between 10 and 40 per cent of the taxes for municipal and school purposes levied on the property that are attributable to,
(a) the building or structure or portion of the building or structure that is the eligible heritage property; and
(b) the land used in connection with the eligible heritage property, as determined by the local municipality."
The Star reported that Amherstburg had an issue with this tax refund:
"The purpose of these changes is to provide for more accountability on the part of the applicant to ensure the refunds are being used for the preservation and maintenance of the heritage building," according to a report written by the town's tax collector and deputy treasurer, Pamela Malott.
Deputy Mayor Anthony Leardi got the ball rolling on the changes in November when he raised concerns about heritage property owners "pocketing the money" they gained from the tax rebate instead of using it to maintain their buildings.