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The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) Meaford, formerly known as Heritage Meaford has filed an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) pertaining to council's recent decision to approve increased building height in the downtown core.

A proposed development that would significantly alter the look and feel of Meaford's downtown core cleared a major hurdle on July 27, when Meaford's council approved zoning and official plan amendments that give the green light for increased building height, a key component of the proposed development.

Council's unanimous approval of the increase in allowable building height, along with comments made by councillors during discussion at their July 27 meeting, also seem to pave the way for the demolition of historic brick buildings located on Sykes Street.

ACO Meaford however, is not happy with council's decison.

ACO Meaford, like most businesses and residents in our community, is excited by the prospect of making Meaford more vital by bringing new businesses and residents into the downtown area. We do, however, have serious concerns about the implications of the current bylaw and plan amendments that allow for a significant increase in building heights and demolition of a large percentage of our heritage architecture,” said the organization in a press release. “This is not a question of development versus heritage. They are not mutually exclusive and need to be looked at as a part of an overall plan for our downtown including the harbour. Before making any decisions we need to look at the long term effects on all of the downtown businesses whose profitability and property values would potentially be negatively impacted by the loss of the heritage character of our street-scape. This is not just about four buildings.”

While the proposed development has been a cause for concern in the community for several months, Meaford's Director of Planning and Building, Rob Armstrong, told council that the plans for the development – which include tearing down four buildings on Sykes Street and replacing them with a new structure that is significantly taller, and includes underground parking – generally meet municipal planning policies. Armstrong said that the developer has agreed to preserve some of the building facades - just 16 percent according to ACO Meaford member David Baker.

While ACO Meaford stands firm in their desire to protect the historic buildings, one business owner – and resident of – one of the buildings in question, took to Facebook in the days prior to the July 27 meeting to express support for the proposed development.

While I love our downtown, I do also wonder at what point do we all have to realize that this town is slowly dying,” posted Nancy Ellis, the owner of Simply Unique, which is located in one of the buildings proposed for demolition should the zoning amendments be approved by council. “If and when this goes through I not only lose my storefront, but also my home! The people that are so hell-bent against the BIG build should have bought these stores and invested some of their money into the buildings that are truly crumbling around us.”

With regard to facts, ACO Meaford suggests that council has few, when they should have had many prior to making their July 27 decision.

Council, as far as the public knows, has not demanded from the developer, or created themselves, any kind of economic impact study. We have no idea what jobs or revenue streams might be forthcoming to offset the community’s loss of their heritage buildings. In 120 days, with no economic analysis and little more that the initial euphoria about the prospect of new development, council has effectively undone many years of work in creating Meaford’s official plan and has ignored the provisions of the Heritage Conservation District that they approved well under a year ago,” says ACO Meaford.

In spite of their appeal to the OMB, ACO Meaford insists that they are not trying to stand in the way of development.

Our objective is not to stand in the way of the economic development of our community but rather to ensure that we take a broader view and explore all economically viable options to maximize the present opportunity for the benefit of all of the community and downtown businesses,” said ACO Meaford.