Heritage Criteria Challenged

A resident’s comments.

For your consideration;

CRB 1103 Oct 29, 2012 states:
“While all agree it is not a landmark (i.e. has lost the 3 contextual criteria), 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 (108 acres1/3 it has been significantly and substantially reduced to a “benchmark”).”

Please note: Benchmark, “a standard, point of reference” is NOT a criteria for designation. An historic plaque can be a benchmark.

Please tell us where “benchmark” and “reflective of” are stipulated to be criteria for designation?

The farmstead has been decimated from 108 acres to 1/3 acre. This in and of itself has negated the 3 contextual heritage criteria it once met.

Being on only 1/3 acre, it no longer yields information of the 19th century farming culture. Therefore another heritage criteria is voided.

To support this, I refer you to:

The Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment for the Hanlon Farmstead, 331 Clair Rd E, May 31, 2012, Section 2.ii, Historical Value

“The subject property does not yield or have the potential to yield information that contributes to an understanding of a community or culture (i.e. 19th century farming) because it is now comprised of a small portion 4.2 acre portion of a 100 acre farmstead…” (p. 15)

The Wilson Farmhouse now has only a 1/3 acre portion of a 108 acre farmstead.

Under the circumstances, Mr. Robinson, how does the Wilson Farmhouse yield information on 19th century farming?

This heritage criteria has been voided and the presented evidence in our report should have been acknowledged by the Heritage Officers as such.

You could not state that the Wilson Farmhouse yields information on 19th century farming culture in your summation, because it would be inaccurate. Instead you stated in CRB 1103, Oct 29, 2012:

“The structure remains in its same location imputes to a value as the original farmstead, plus its orientation to Victoria Rd. reveals its value in showing the development in farming over the centuries.” (p. 11) How does location yield information on farming culture?

Having shown that 2 of the 3 heritage criteria have been voided, is it fair that this Farmhouse is still being considered for designation? Why is rezoning, sale and severance still on the agenda?

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1 Comment

Filed under Heritage, Wilson Farm Park

One response to “Heritage Criteria Challenged

  1. Dennis Galon

    I know I an not the only one perturbed by repeated efforts to denigrate the heritage value of the Wilson Farmhouse, most especially on the grounds of context. I am bothered that some proponents of demolition seem unable to grasp that this type of argument, at this stage of the game, is completely counter productive. It is working against you!

    It ought to be clear by now, especially after the last session before council and the questions the councillors asked of heritage-deniers, that this argument is not winning any friends. The reason is simple enough, “Been there, Done that!” Further, in an already heated environment, this ineffective argument merely waves a red flag in the face of preservationists. Wouldn’t it be better to come out of this dispute as friends having fought the good fight, rather than foes?

    If you want to talk context, then let’s talk the really big context.

    In Canada and many other common law countries, whenever we have a serious need to reach a final, definitive decision about something important, we employ the adversarial system. We use it to determine criminal responsibility and civil liability in our courts. We use it in our formal inquiries at all levels to determine the truth as best we can. And we use it in our many quasi-judicial tribunals.

    A case can be made that broad public acceptance of this adversarial system and the results in produces is the very foundation of the social peace and order we enjoy. Pay carefully attention to the many countries now struggling to establish democracies, and you will notice that popular distrust of judicial results is often at the core of political violence. Although the adversarial system is known to sometimes produce flawed results, the only way we know to correct those errors is further recourse to legal review employing the same adversarial system.

    Bluntly put, after at five millennia of searching for the best formal way to arrive at final decisions, humanity has been unable to find anything better than the adversarial system. (For the sake of completeness, I should acknowledge that there is a competing approach, know as the inquisitorial system with an equally well earned reputation. We just happen to have inherited the adversarial system along with all other countries that trace their systems of justice to British common law.)

    So lets apply this deep context to the issue at hand. The Conservation Review Board (CRB) is a tribunal of experts with broad experience across the province charged with adjudicating between conflicting opinions about the heritage value of properties in Ontario. It employs the adversarial system to reach its conclusions. To repeat, humanity knows of no better system for reaching a final decision about matters of importance than the system employed by the CRB in reaching its decisions.

    The heritage value of the Wilson Farmhouse has been adjudicated by this Board. The city presented the view that it has heritage value, a group of Northern Heights residents vigorously and competently presented the oppose view. The Board determined that the Wilson Farmhouse has heritage value. It did not declare that the value was, shall we say, prime rib, first-class quality, but it none the less did determine that there is sufficient value here worthy of protection. From a provincial wide perspective; a rather broad context indeed.

    This carefully derived judgement, again, arrived at through the best system humanity has so far developed for reaching definitive decisions, is merely advisory. It does not require the City to designate the property as a heritage property; it does not in any way limit what we, the citizens of Guelph via our Council, can do with the property, including demolish it. All that it does is advise any one that has ears to listen and is interested in the best possible determination of the truth of the matter, that the Wilson Farmhouse has heritage value. Period.

    Council knows this. Council understands this. Council is fully aware that if it decides to demolish this building, it is demolishing a heritage property, and Council if fully prepared to do that. Conservationists understand this. Conservationist accept that this is a heritage property that just might in the end have to be demolished because an acceptable preservation plan may not exist. I do not hear any of them clambering for designation as a tactic to forestall demolition.

    Why then do some folks continue to flog a dead horse—repeating on paper to Council, and orally before Council, and now again in this forum, exactly the same arguments that were aggressively presented to the CRB? If you want to appeal a final decision arrived at through the adversarial position, you are expected to come up with significantly NEW evidence, evidence that prime facia might have changed the result had it been heard at the time. Without that, in any well ordered, peaceful society, one is, shall we say with a touch of vulgarity, understood to be urinating up wind.

    Would it be unkind of me to suggest there is something pathetic about continuing to do the same thing expecting a different result? Is it unfair to suggest there is something foolish about doing that when it clearly is not going to make any difference—no Councillor is going to change their vote because they have been converted to the view that the place does not have heritage value.

    Council has before it a brilliant, balanced motion that takes us out of a troubling impasse, the do-nothing-corner that Council painted itself into last time. In Councillor Leanne Piper’s motion, preservationist are being effectively told, “put up or shut up;” find an acceptable usage in the next 120 days, or get out of the way and let the place be demolished. In this motion, those in favour of demolition have been promised finality in four short months—the onus, the burden, is entirely on the preservationist; demolition is the default option. It just can’t get any better than that for the demolitionists. Especially when it is perfectly clear that the 6:6 stalemate last time will be broken this time by Councillor Lise Burcher, a well know heritage devotee.

    The smart money would be for preservations and demolitionists to get on board the same train, urge Council to support the Piper Motion without amendments.

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