Wilson Farmhouse comments For November 4th Council meeting

A resident’s comments.

I hope that you have taken the time to read my two previous comments on the Wilson Farmhouse and have viewed the supporting photographs. I wish to ask council to make the right decision and not withdraw the Notice of Intention to Designate the property known as 80 Simmonds Drive, with Section 2(14) of the Ontario Heritage Act.

I would ask Council and Mayor to support Councillor Piper’s Notice of Motion:

“That Staff be directed to issue a Request for Expression of Interest for the sale or lease of 80 Simmonds Drive (Wilson Farmhouse) for a period of 120 days for community use or residential use (including its permitted use under the Zoning By-law).

And that staff report back at a future meeting of Council all Expressions of interest received, for evaluation and further direction.

And that, if no Expressions of Interest are received, or deemed appropriate by Council for further consideration, that the farmhouse at 80 Simmonds be demolished and its materials, where possible, be salvaged for reuse or recycling.  LP

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13 Comments

Filed under Heritage, Wilson Farm Park

13 responses to “Wilson Farmhouse comments For November 4th Council meeting

  1. Dennis Galon

    Lets all support the Piper motion.

    I do believe that the preservationists (and I am one) are on board to support Councillor Piper’s motion, so I would like to suggest here, as politely and respectfully as I can, that it would be in the best self interest of the demolitionist, at this juncture, to also support this motion without amendment.

    Please consider that the 6:6 tie last time will be broken this time by Councillor Lise Burcher. Although I have not spoken with Lise about this issue, she is a well know devotee of heritage. In terms of raw votes, should it boil down to a pure, aggressive, naked confrontation in Council on Monday November 4, the advantage lies (7:6) with the preservationists.

    Councillor Piper’s motion not only provides a compromise preventing a sudden death disaster for the demolitionists, but upon careful consideration of its terms, it also stacks the deck in favour of demolition. Effectively Leanne’s motion places a gun to the head of the preservationists forcing them to come up with an acceptable plan to save the farmhouse in four short months, or get out of the way and let the place get torn down, hopefully adding a shaded sitting area as an amenity in the Wilson Farm park.

    The demolitionists are offered finality with a mere four months delay, a pittance of time in the broader scheme of what everyone now agrees has been a decade long botched process. Note that demolition is the DEFAULT option; the onus, the BURDEN is entirely placed on the shoulders of the preservationists. Put up or shut up, now.

    If I were a demolitionist, I would see this as going forward just shy of a royal flush…except for one tiny, nagging, frightening possibility. What if during the 120 days some hair-brained scheme comes forward that sounds good on paper, but in cold hard daylight doesn’t stand a chance of succeeding, much less pleasing the neighbours? What if the 7:6 preservationist advantage in Council were then to adopt such a loser. Councillor Findlay’s scheme without a great deal more specificity, without reputable backers and proven community leaders, might be an example of just such a pipe dream.

    I think I could imagine myself into that fear, if only I were to lay aside what I know about this Council and its individual members. But in fact I know this Council is amazingly sane for group of 13 politicians. We have a solid balance between left and right; we have a group of people that have learned by this point in their mandate to give and take. No one there wants to be caught supporting something that might expose itself as a boondoggle before the next election. There is a solid majority, I believe, that will never support a potential failure. If nothing broadly acceptable, with a solid business case, turns up in 120 days, this Council will not pick the best of a bad lot; they will choose “None of the above.” The burden really, really is on the preservations to pull a rabbit from the hat, to find a real winner that pleases practically everyone in 120 days.

    I do have a different concern that I think is a more realistic possibility, and it would be nightmare for all sides, especially the long suffering demolitionists. I fear efforts by some Councillors to amend the motion leading to another stalemate. In particular the phrase “lease or sell” the Wilson farmhouse is, in my opinion, a potential time bomb. Let me explain.

    It is quite possible that an amendment to delete the “sell” option might pass 7:6, and a second amendment to delete the “lease” option might pass with a differently constituted 7:6 vote. We saw from the prior Council meeting that a solid group of Councillors are adamantly against sever and sell because the City and neighbours forfeit long term control of the site; and there is a solid group of Councillors that adamantly oppose any significant financial underwriting of the project by taxpayer funds expected in leasing. Such a “double negative” amendment would gut the motion, possibly producing another stalemate (bad for demolitionists) or a raw confrontational vote (again bad for demolitionists).

    On the other hand, if Council were to find both sides asking them to pass the Piper Motion without amendment on Monday, then they would be foolish do something contrary to the common will.

    So please lets give the preservationist their 120 days. Who knows, someone might come forward to move and preserve the building. Wouldn’t that just please everyone!

    • lb

      Dennis, I haven’t always agreed with your comments or position but I appreciate what and how you bring it to the table….and I think you are bang on with this one.
      Let’s give this one more kick at the can, vote the motion through, receive and review any realistic EOIs, at which time, I would expect council to prioritize based on community use first. I am still very much against severing and sale for a residence, but this would be one possible outcome of many that could be received.
      Oh, and I agree with your other post too. The heritage argument ended with the decision from CRB. While some might disagree with the decision, we must respect the process and move on.
      Here is where we may differ though; if sever and sale are the only EOIs received, I would expect Mr. Findlay and others on council to support the neighbourhood and vote for demolition. Although I can see how this would be a travesty to some, I think selling parkland is more of a travesty.
      Oh, and like everyone else, this is just my opinion. No need for people to respond to me complaining I am new to Guelph and should not have a say, my house will be blown down in a tornado, I am anti-heritage, or I am badly misinformed or spreading lies. I come here to read other people’s views, opinions and information on this issue and to share mine, I have no interest in name calling or trying to discredit people and their opinions.

      • Dennis Galon

        Thank you LB.

        I appreciate your objection to sever and sell. In other parts of the city, heritage properties have been designated as such, with serious restrictions on what owners can and cannot do to the place, and then are sold on the open market. This has worked, but, to the best of my knowledge, when a residence was involve, it has always been a home situated within its neighborhood as a home. The unique thing with the Wilson Farmhouse is that it is situated where one most decidedly would not expect a home to be located. So I totally agree with you, a simply sever, designate, and sell as a residence option in Northern Heights would be real dumb. But I am prepared to bet nothing like that happens,
        even is proposals to buy the place for a quarter million are received.

        However, I can conceive of concepts under that technically are sever and sell, which could arguably be thought of as “community use.” If I lived across the street from the farmhouse, I would look positively on something like a Residence + Day Care, or Residence + Yoga Centre, or Residence + Dance Instruction, or Residence + Physiotherapy operation. The problem, in my mind, is that there may well be no legal way to enforce such usages in the long term. And therefore I doubt Coucnil will approve such options.

        What I would really like to see happen is a lease option like we have with the Boathouse at the confluence of the Speed and Eramosa rivers. City would own it, could thus guarantee that only community compatible uses operate there. Under that rubric, all of the above options would strike me as sympatico. Also, under a lease option, it should be feasible for the City to specify that the shadded tree areas remain fully open to public use of the park.

        How about you? Would the type of Residence + X notions I listed be suitable in that location, if they could be guaranteed in the long term?

        • Lb

          That is a tough one. My initial idea of community use is of a facility that is used by the general public either as a walk in gathering place or to rent space. The ideas mentioned above would not provide that. They would not provide washrooms for soccer or the ice rink, they would not allow shelter from the elements. You would need to be a client.
          Parking might be an issue. There would need to be something to ensure the privacy of their clientele or safety and security of the daycare children, so I think a fence would be inevitable with these residence+ examples you have suggested. But the beauty of the EOI process, is this would all be considered.
          I do not live directly across from the house. I live on the opposite corner of the park. So traffic or noise would not impact me. I do understand the concern of those directly across from the house, but I do not believe any of the varied ideas I have heard so far would bring significantly more traffic to the area than the park does or will do when the soccer field and rink are up and running. These residence+ suggestions though would likely be the quietest ventures that could happen, as you would not have large volumes of constant noise and traffic. And it preserves the house for those that believe it is important.
          Like I said, tough one. Let’s see what we get in the EOI process.

  2. palmer s

    Its mold infested barn tear it down.

  3. Susan

    A correction – the city would not be selling park land as this property was never part of the park. Read the official plan, rather than believing incorrect statements that have been made. The city would be severing the farmhouse land for residential use as it allowed in the OP.

    • L.P.

      Right On! Susan

    • Lb

      Thanks for the correction Susan. I guess I still have the picture of the billboard that was in front of the house a few years ago in my mind. It clearly showed the entire block as park. I am not sure who puts these up, the developer, the builder, the city…or if the city approves them. I know these billboards do not replace official plans, but they do contribute to the misinformation and misunderstanding out there.
      I also heard at the council meeting that it would need to be rezoned residential. How is it zoned now?
      And finally, I think most people admit that most of the planning and development best practices were not followed when developing the surrounding roads, landscape and subdivision. I wonder when what is stated in an official plan needs to be reviewed after so much time and mismanagement has occurred?

      • Lb

        Oh, and one last thought. It would be a shame after years of the community (Waldorf, daycare kids, my kids) using that part of the ‘park’ for shade, enjoying the trees, sledding, running up and down the hills, that it become a private residence with a fence.

      • Dennis Galon

        Lb, I am not sure how the property is currently zoned. But I am certain that neither the Official Plan or current zoning is likely to be an impediment, in the current context, as to what might be done with the Wilson farmhouse.

        In general, I think that following would be a fair statement of how Official Plans and zoning are supposed to work. City Councils are required to generate and seek approval for Official Plans from the municipalities ministry on a regular basis (either five or ten years, can’t remember which). The fundamental purpose of this document is to provide all and sundry, most especially developers, a reliable heads up as to how the City is planning our city. (Thus the constant reference in this dispute by preservationists to the OP has long stated that the Wilson Farmhouse was to be preserved; for as far as development is concerned this is the local Bible.)

        But City Council can and does periodically ammend the OP between the periods when they are obliged to do so. The process is formal, but complicated only when people object, especially developers with deep pockets. For anyone can appeal an OP ammendment to the Ontario Municpal Board (OMB), and that gets expensive. What happens with disturbing frequency is developers appeal to the OMB against a City’s refusal to ammend the OP to suit the developer’s desire to do something that is against the pre-existing, publicly declared planning intention.

        None of that exist here. So, it should be a simple matter for the City to eliminate the resticition currently in place for the Wilson home, once a decision has been made what to do with it.

        Zoning is a sort of sub-set of the OP, in the sense that it tends to specify more precisely what uses a particular property will allow within the broader description of the OP. Again, changing the zoning as might be required should not be an issue, once it is decided what to do with the property.

        Bottom line, since the City owns the house, and has the authority to change the zoning and ammend the OP, they should not be impediments. However, the fact remains the someone could appeal a Council decision to the OMB. In my judgement not likely here; and much less likely to succeed.

        I hope I am not insulting you with this overly simple explanation. I am quite sure some folks involved in this dispute don’t, and shouldn’t be expected, to understand this machinery of local planning.

  4. I’m looking for some help to understand something. It seems like Wilson Farm House received heritage status by an official governing body, yet Council has the final say. Is this how it works? How many of the Council members are qualified in the realm of heritage status?

    120 days to receive Expressions of Interest is 4 months. If there are some EOI’s that come in, time will be needed to go through them thoroughly. I’m just saying that this will continue for a while. Is there a need to put a time limit on how long staff get to go through the EOI’s? Some EOI’s might take more time. What if the EOIs have potential but need some tweaking? How will that be accounted? A public consultation regarding the EOIs would be beneficial to get the community’s input.

    Does Councillor Piper’s motion need any tweaking? Take the time needed to get the wording right. Do you need to include something about staff/council being transparent with the public about all EOIs?

    I moved to Guelph from Toronto just over a year ago. One of the attractions was the character and charm Guelph had to offer. For instance, we love the stone buildings. We also love places that have history. For example, a city in France, whether it be Paris or Issoudun, a town I lived in for a year, it has buildings that have been around longer than Canada has existed as a country. This is what makes a trip worthwhile, to see and experience something we don’t have. Here, it seems we are so quick to destroy, demolish or destruct. Sure, there are reasons. I ask us to contemplate the mentality of knocking down rather than working with what is, showing pride, caring for something and fixing it. Let us also contemplate when the cost to fix something exceeds the cost to demolish. What if restoring Wilson Farm House wasn’t about money? What if that is only part of the picture?

    Demolishing the Wilson Farm House so people can have shade….well, the park is pretty bare. Shade is needed, way more than what is there. How many trees were there before it was a park? What did it look like when it was a farm? What about restoring the park to represent the original farm? What is that wooden fence called? That would look beautiful around the park.

    The other thing that I see is voting on an issue when all the pieces aren’t necessarily present. What can be done to ensure that all the pieces are available? What, if any, information do Council Members need to be more informed?

  5. geo

    The City has no right to sell that land.

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