Saturday, December 4, 2021

Heritage Committee Member Responds to Recent Editorial

Dear Editor,

I am speaking on my behalf and although I am a member of the Heritage Committee, my comments are my own.

The committee is made up of volunteers donating their time, experience and expertise to make recommendations to Council to guide in the management and protection of the Heritage Conservation District. We strive to work with applicants and are now completing a Guideline to facilitate the application process for Heritage Permit applicants. We are trying to make it easier. Smaller applications are done directly through staff.

To my recollection I have never seen a study showing people being displaced from Heritage Districts because of the price of rents or house value. The studies I have seen indicate that property prices in Heritage Conservation Districts (HCD) do not increase or decrease because of it. The studies show the properties seem to maintain their value in a down market. Renovations on the interior of HCD homes do not require a permit. With exterior changes the concern is to ensure the retention of heritage features, characteristics and materials. As the previous owner of a 1856 heritage property I did not find exterior renovations to be any more costly than one would expect from a 160-year-old home.

The committee’s recommendation to Council on the heritage sign permit you mentioned was reached after discussions and negotiations with the lawyer representing the applicant. I can assure you that the fact it was a cannabis store was not a factor in our discussion. The committee must take into consideration that the sign is well-designed, does not overwhelm the building façade and contributes to the continuing vibrancy of the District so a certain amount of discretion is allowed. There are many signs and displays on Sykes St that were there prior to the HCD plan so they may not conform to new sign by-laws or the HCD plan. I did watch the discussion by Council on the permit and although it may appear that an undue amount of time was spent on it, you must remember that each permit can be used as a precedent and it is the whole Sykes St commercial core that will be affected by it. The character and charm of our Town can be whittled away by one cut at a time.

Jim Sullivan, Meaford

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