Heritage Guelph Submission to Council re Wilson Park Farmhouse Staff Report CSS-PR-1335

A resident’s submission to Council.

Summary
This submission is made to the Council of the City of Guelph from the City of Guelph Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee, known as Heritage Guelph.

Heritage Guelph strongly opposes the Executive Summary Recommendation in the Staff Report CSS-PR-1335 regarding the cultural heritage property at 80 Simmonds drive, also known as the Wilson Farmhouse, and requests that City Council NOT accept this Recommendation for demolition of this property for the following reasons:

1. The Recommendation to demolish this property is in direct contradiction to advice, reports and recommendations that identify this property as a cultural heritage resource and that advise the City to conserve this property through designation under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act. Specifically this Recommendation contradicts the City of Guelph Official Plan, the City’s Cultural Heritage Resource Policy, and recommendations by Heritage Guelph, by City planning staff, by City Council and the Ontario Conservation Review Board. In the last 3 years these reports and recommendations conclusively established the cultural heritage significance of this property, directing the City of Guelph to designate and protect this property under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act.

2. At no time was Heritage Guelph informed or consulted before or after the submission of this Staff Report to the CSS Committee on September 17, 2013 or its inclusion on the September 30, 2013 agenda of the Guelph City Council.
The Ontario Heritage Act (s. 28) defines Heritage Guelph’s statutory role in this case:
To advise and assist the council on all matters relating to Part IV (Conservation of Properties of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest)

3. The Recommendation to demolish this cultural heritage asset is clearly not supported by the evidence presented in the report as listed in Table 1 “Options for the Farmhouse.” For instance, the most opportunities and least constraints for future options for the City are presented in Options 1 and 4, because the cultural heritage resource is conserved. Option 1: “Designate, sever and sell” lists 6 “opportunities”:
1.Eliminates City’s financial liability
2. Consistent with Heritage Guelph and Conservation Review Board recommendation”
3. Reduced size mitigates neighbourhood concerns to extent feasible
4. Positive revenue impact for City
5. Would allow heritage value to be retained
6. Consistent with the Official Plan, no amendment required unless use is non-residential.
The only constraints to Option 1 are minimal and inconclusive: “may require a zoning law amendment” and are unsubstantiated, “loss of parkland access by neighbourhood to most desirable park area”. In no part of the attached “Park Master Plan Survey do residents identify this area as “the most desirable.”

4. By proceeding to demolish a publically owned cultural heritage property with no broad community consultation on potential future options, with no vision for incorporating heritage into the fabric of the community, without pursuing an option to designate, sever and sell this property and with no consultation with the City’s chief advisory body on heritage, this Recommendation contradicts every element of the stated “Corporate Strategic Plan”(p.8) for organizational excellence to which this report is held accountable. Specifically, its preparation and recommendations fail to:
1.2 Develop collaborative work teams to apply whole systems thinking to deliver creative solutions
2.2 Deliver public service better
3.1 Ensure a well-designed…. and sustainable City
3.2 Be economically viable, resilient and attractive for business.

5. Finally, the demolition by the City of this pioneer farmhouse contradicts the City’s own policy and guidelines for the protection of extant agricultural heritage resources in new suburban developments, and sets an incontrovertible precedent for private developers to do likewise.

The Wilson Farmhouse: A City-Owned Cultural Heritage Resource at Risk

Background

For the record, recommendations for designation and protection of 80 Simmonds Drive have been:

1. Submitted to Planning Staff by the Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee in 2010 as directed by the City;
2. Supported by Planning Staff and Guelph City Council who passed a motion to designate this property and proceeded with a Notice of Intention to Designate in 2011;
3. Upheld by the Ontario Conservation Review Board who ruled in favour of the City of Guelph’s intention to designate the property in 2012, and ruled against the objection of the Northern Heights Liaison Group.

Heritage Guelph: Expertise and Responsibilities Regarding 80 Simmonds Drive
The City of Guelph Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee is a committee of twelve people who are dedicated experts, including architects, historians, landscape architects, planners, educators and business professionals. Under the Ontario Heritage Act, the Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee’s chief role is to provide knowledge and expertise on heritage matters relevant to the city of Guelph and to advise and make recommendations accordingly. The Ontario Heritage Act (s. 28) defines Heritage Guelph’s committee’s statutory role in this case:
To advise and assist the council on all matters relating to Part IV (Conservation of Properties of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest)

Under this legislation City Council is required to consult with the Municipal Heritage Committee:
• during the designation process for individual properties and for districts;
• on applications to alter designated properties;
• on applications to demolish or remove;
• on applications to repeal designation by-law;

Cultural Heritage Value of 80 Simmonds Drive, Guelph
1. Heritage Guelph Designation Report, 2010. Approved by City Council, 2011.
80 Simmonds Drive has been recommended for designation under Section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act because it meets criteria for designation under Regulation9/06 specifically:

It meets the design or physical value category of Regulation 9/06 because it is a representative example of late 19th century, vernacular Ontario Gothic farmhouse architecture once common in the rural areas surrounding Guelph. Its historical or associative value is connected with the Wilson family, early settlers who purchased the land from the Canada Company in 1836 and farmed the land for over a century. That the structure remains in its same location imputes to a value as the original farmstead, plus its orientation to Victoria Road reveals its value in showing the development in farming over the centuries.

2. Report of the Ontario Conservation Review Board: 2012.

On an objection to the City of Guelph’s Notice of Intention to Designate by the Northern Heights Liaison Group led by Mr. Mike Lackowicz, the Ontario Conservation Review Board ruled unequivocally in favour of the City of Guelph:

It is the conclusion of the Review Board that upon the evidence presented by the parties it is evident that this property, with its farmhouse structure and including the black walnut trees, is worthy of designation for its design or physical and historical or associative values to the community, as defined by Ontario Regulation 9/06 and deserves protection under section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act. The expert evidence submitted by the City carried substantial weight in the Review Board’s consideration of the evidence in this case. The testimony of the Objector’s expert witness was candid and informative but was significantly outweighed by that of the City. While all agreed that the property is certainly not a landmark in the area, the Review Board concurs with the City’s position that it is a benchmark for the community and reflective of the City’s once vibrant agricultural past.
Board Recommendation
For the reasons given above and based on the evidence heard, the Review Board recommends that the Council of the City of Guelph proceed with the designation of the property known as the Wilson/Ingram Farmhouse, 80 Simmonds Drive, Guelph, Ontario, under section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act., R.S.O. 1990, Chapter O.18, amended 2009.

Conclusion
In response to the Recommendation and direction regarding 80 Simmonds Drive in the staff report of the Community and Social Services Committee under consideration today, the Municipal Heritage Committee passed a motion at the September 9, 2013 meeting as follows:
That Heritage Guelph reaffirms its commitment to the designation of 80 Simmonds Drive under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act as previously recommended by Heritage Guelph and the Conservation Review Board, and that, Heritage Guelph is strongly opposed to Staff recommendations in its (CSS) Report
In so doing, Heritage Guelph is in accordance with the City of Guelph Official Plan 2001; December 2012 Official Plan Consolidation, p. 25 for retention of this building:
Cultural Heritage Resources – Victoria Road North Secondary Plan Area
3.5.20 In addition to the policies contained in subsection 3.5 of this Plan, the following policies provide context for new development within the Victoria Road North Secondary Plan Area:
1. The farmhouse at 595 Victoria Road North will be incorporated into the design of the main public square for the lands located along the west side of Victoria Road, providing opportunity for the use of this building as a public facility (community centre or library) or alternatively, to be retained as a residential use.  MT

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