A Ward 2 resident’s comments.
You are probably overwhelmed today with correspondence about the Wilson Farmhouse. I’d like to add a few words at the risk of adding to that overwhelm.
The fact that there IS such a lot of controversy around this issue, that there ARE so many delegates tonight; so much mail, press and letters to the editor; is a strong indicator to me that the poor neglected house has come to symbolize much more than a planning/heritage story. It’s polarized our citizenry. It’s made your job next to impossible, and I empathize with that.
Who wins in this?
Bulldozing the historic structure is not going to make this story go away. In fact it will perpetuate the sense that our official plan does not matter. The unanimous council decision to designate the building does not matter. The expert, well-reasoned recommendation by Heritage Guelph does not matter. The admitted negligence around public consultation does not matter. The appealing offer by Habitat For Humanity to rehabilitate the building and make it a vibrant asset in our community doesn’t matter. The many voices in the community urging a city-wide public engagement around the house does not matter if demolition is sanctioned.
What seems to matter most is that the staff has decided to be influenced by a few residents in the neighbourhood who have zero interest in honouring our heritage and in observing our official plan and the fact that this house represents a city-wide asset, not just a local one. What seems to matter is that the staff has grown weary of this whole thing and want to wash their hands of the matter.
As some of you know, I have long been an advocate for preserving our history and architecture. It’s essential to our civic identity and well-being. Of course it is a great disappointment to see that many councillors who I supported and endorsed in the last election do not share this view. ( Or if they share it, they are not demonstrating it here.) It is of GREATER disappointment that those same councillors feel that somehow it’s OK to proceed with destruction when they ALL admit that the public consultation process has not been properly observed.
I urge you to consider at least this last point. The building is not posing any risk to the neighbourhood as it is. It is sadly neglected, and an eyesore to those lacking the vision of Councillor Piper who has projected beautiful images of how it might complement its surroundings if given some tender loving care. There is no need to rush. The locals who have been noisily supporting demolition on the urging of housing developers in the area can wait a little longer for a proper consultation to take place.
That building is NOT the MOST beautiful and significant farmhouse in our rapidly diminishing inventory of homes that celebrate our agricultural heritage. Does that mean it has to go? That means it’s survival depends on someone making a judgement about it’s ‘beauty’ rather than observing a more objective position. That is, that maintaining our cultural identity, keeping a diversity of architecture in our neighbourhoods, and honouring our heritage is a key part of who we are in this city. Tearing down that building also tears down our trust that our leaders are mindful of our official plan and our democratic process.
Please honour our official plan. Please listen to our heritage experts.
Please be open to new creative ideas around preservation. Please be open to new offers about purchasing the building and making it a strong community asset.
Please vote to save the Wilson Farmhouse! JG