Wilson farmhouse: Please support the motion as worded

A resident’s perspective.

Please give your support to the motion put forward by Councillor Leanne Piper asking for a 120-day period to receive Expressions of Interest in regard to the Wilson Farmhouse. I would ask that you endorse the motion as worded, without limiting or encumbering it with amendments.

The City of Guelph website page on the Wilson Farmhouse still states the following:
Next steps
Following review of the CRB report, staff will prepare a list of options for the future of the farmhouse and conduct a public consultation process on these.

As I have expressed in my delegations and written comments to date, it is a key concern for me that no public consultation happened prior to the September 30th Council meeting where a deadlock occurred between demolition and severance and sale.

I appreciate that CAO Ann Pappert took responsibility for having “paused” the consultation process, however, the outcome was tantamount to cancellation as there was no window of opportunity for the consultation to be resumed prior to a decision.

I feel that Councillor Piper’s motion, if passed as worded, will allow for a substitute form of public consultation to take place. Anyone with an interest in the farmhouse will be able to put forward their proposal. All EOIs will be on the public record and integrated into a staff report or the agendas of future Council meetings. The EOIs will come back to Council to be debated in an open forum. All citizens will have the opportunity to review every EOI and to make their views known through written comments and verbal delegations.

The open evaluation of all EOIs by Council will address concerns articulated by Councillor Guthrie at the September 30th Council meeting regarding the opportunity to consider uses of the farmhouse in the context of the needs of the immediate neighbourhood.

Even more than a public consultation, the EOI process will require that serious proposals be made. Discussion about potential interest in the farmhouse can move from the realm of abstract ideas to concrete bids.

If no EOIs whatsoever are received by the City, I do understand that demolition is the outcome envisioned by this motion. I appreciate the position of the City that an orphaned building with no City use and no interested private buyer or user cannot be left standing indefinitely, particularly in this location.

If a number of EOIs are received by the City, Council will then need to consider a framework for prioritizing and evaluating the appropriateness of the proposals. This needs to be done in a fair and transparent manner. All members of Council will need to act with goodwill. The playing of political games will only serve to again polarize parties on both sides of the issue.

I would also like to address concerns around making a timely decision. At the September 30th Council meeting, Councillor Furfaro stated something to the effect that “this is issue has gone on long enough and it is time to make a decision.” While I may share Councillor Furfaro’s concern that there are a number of unexplained delays on the part of City staff in addressing the fate of the farmhouse, I would point out that the building has been owned by the City since 2005, not 1999. Homeowners on the east and west sides of the park, including Northern Heights Residents Association members Mr. Lackowicz and Ms. Sperle took possession of their newly-built homes in 2010. In the ensuing 3-year period, the issue of the farmhouse was put into complete limbo for 18 months as a direct result of the Conservation Review Board appeal launched by Mr. Lakcowicz.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask for 120 days to ensure a fair and open decision-making process. It’s November. No one will be walking to the park to sit under the walnut trees surrounding the house between now and the beginning of March. If no EOIs whatsoever are received by the City, demolition can proceed immediately after the 120-day period has expired and the land can be cleared in time for summer park use.

If a number of EOIs are received by the City, staff and Council resources need to be allocated to make a final decision as quickly as possible.

In regard to the farmhouse, section 3.5.20 of Guelph’s Official Plan states the following:

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.

The opportunity still exists to realize the vision of the Official Plan for the farmhouse, either as a community centre or as a private residence. The publicity surrounding the issue of the farmhouse has already resulted in a number of ideas and proposals being put forward. These have included a letter of interest of private purchase from Ms. Stacy Collison, a proposal of heritage restoration and residential use by Habitat for Humanity, a business plan framework for community use and expressions of interest of rental use of public space by The Trillium Waldorf School and Guelph Soccer. The recent announcement of the “Elevator Project” is an exciting opportunity for both financial and strategic support for potential community uses of the farmhouse.

All of these ideas need to be given a full airing in a fair, open and transparent manner prior to any final decision of either severance and sale or demolition. If a process based on these principles is followed, I can live with the outcome. I would feel sadness if the house is demolished, but I would be reassured that all options had first been fully explored.

The University of Guelph is currently dealing with an extremely challenging decision-making process. A newspaper quote from Maureen Mancuso resonated for me in relation to the Wilson farmhouse situation: “The decisions we need to make…must be transparent so that there is no resentment, even if there is some regret.”

Thank you for considering my position.  SW

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5 Comments

Filed under Heritage, Wilson Farm Park

5 responses to “Wilson farmhouse: Please support the motion as worded

  1. MS

    Whether possession of those homes was taken in 2005 or 2010, or even 2013, is irrelevant. What is relevant is the current state of the structure, the many missteps by the City, and the future of the farm house – and how designation negatively impacts those concerned citizens to the east, west, south, and north of the park. Is it also not the right of citizens to challenge decisions made if, as residents, they feel those decisions were not made in the best interests of the residents in a particular neighborhood? Just as you, a concerned citizen, have challenged the recommendation for demolition? And in the future, I would appreciate you not using my name unless you have spoken to me directly. I am not a “member” of the Northern Heights Association, but a concerned citizen who questions the City’s motives and processes.

    • Susan

      Actually, designation will not negatively impact concerned citizens in the area surrounding the park. Study after study shows that a designated property ALWAYS enhances the value of neighbouring properties. I can send you the references.

      • MS

        It will if the house becomes a business or a community centre.

        • waldorfcat

          Please help me understand what you mean by a negative impact.
          The house at Riverdale Farm and the buildings at Dufferin Grove Park, Sorauren Park and the park where the Green Arts Barns are in Toronto, just to name a few, all have a positive impact. These parks are destinations for many and as is the real estate. People want to live close to these “hot spots” because of the community. In this case, there was no community in this location prior to it being built.
          What are your experiences with community?

          • MS

            I am not someone who wants to live across from a “hot spot” and would not have purchased if the farm house was something that would be bringing foot or vehicular traffic.

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