Two years after Alma College was torched, the city is moving in for the kill.
When it sits Monday, council will consider a report from city clerk Wendell Graves that calls for repealing the heritage designation on the Moore Street property, in place since 1994.
In December of that year, the property and all key buildings were desginated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act. The historical significance of the site is also recognized through a provincial plaque, which recently went missing.
This is all possible because in 2007 the city cut a deal with Alma Heritage Estates, owners of the former school for girls since 1998, which allowed the Zubick family of London, Ont., to demolish most of the college.
Under terms of that agreement, the designation bylaw would be repealed and most of the main building, except for a small portion of the facade and belfry tower, would be demolished.
It is easy to argue Alma College, opened in 1881, had in fact already been irreparibly damaged through neglect on the part of the owners.
And, it must be stressed the city was equally negligent.
As far back as 2004, the owners began removing windows in the main building without the consent of council. The ransacking continued unabated as flooring, paneling, fireplaces and other items were removed, in violation of the Ontario Heritage Act.
The city chose not to enforce a stop-work order and likewise never proceeded to prosecute Alma Heritage Estates, in spite of a recommendation to do so from its legal counsel.
The city must still consult with the local Municipal Heritage Committee, however council has seldom given serious consideration to the recommendations of this body, so this will merely be a formality.
Over the past decade a succession of municipal representatives have turned their back on the heritage of St. Thomas or abdicated responsibility to upper-tier government.
Any elected member who argues otherwise need only review the dismal paper trail since 1994.
Once again you have to question the logic in adopting bylaws the city chooses not to enforce.
Such is the case with the waste bylaw passed unanimously this week, which one alderman said afterwards was there to protect more than anything else.
We hope Ald. David Warden is referring to protection that should be offered residents when dealing with the city’s waste contractor, BFI Canada.
The following observation from faithful reader Joe Caverly illustrates why city council is targetting the wrong group with this waste and recycling bylaw and the accompanying fines.
In a note to this corner, Joe writes:
“The couple across the street from us had their green bin sitting by the road, with a handfull of small cuttings sitting on top of the green bin. The cuttings did not extend over the top, but the green bin was full and not enough room for the small cuttings.
“When the BFI driver pulled up to empty the green bin, he threw the handfull of small cuttings on the ground, emptied the green bin, and then drove off.
“On his way back down the other side of the street, the couple went to talk to him about what he did. He yelled at them that there is a rule, and that he could lose his job. Not sure why he had to yell, as he was only about four feet away from them. No matter what they said to him, he kept to his script, yelling there is a rule and that he could lose his job.
“It’s nice to know BFI adheres to their rules so well. I guess that is why last week, on blue box day, the BFI recycling driver removed almost everything from a neighbour’s blue box, except for the cardboard. When the BFI garbage truck came along, he took the garbage and the cardboard from the bluebox.
“Gotta love those rules.”
Like the bylaw in question, BFI rules can be selectively applied to suit the need.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“We’ve got a $2.1 million contract. It’s time to stand up and say, ‘This is what we want.’ “
Ald. Heather Jackson-Chapman says the city should seek a way to address issues such as plastic recyclables, Christmas tree pickup and leaf collection with the city’s waste contractor, BFI Canada.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.