Heritage legislation means nothing if local politicians not on side

Posted by Ian:

Built heritage wasn’t even on the radar at the onset of the Oct 25 municipal election campaign in St. Thomas. Certainly not a lot of candidate literature went into any detail on preserving the city’s heritage and it was a non-starter in the Chamber of Commerce member survey found here.

By the final weekend of the campaign, with full revelation of the $3 million lawsuit filed against the city, Mayor Cliff Barwick and others by developer David McGee, details here, heritage may have proved to be a critical factor in the final outcome.

Here are thoughts taken from Acorn, the newsletter of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, including comments from president Lloyd Alter and two St. Thomas residents …

After I complained last week “that having decent heritage legislation means nothing if you don’t have the local politicians on side,” Toronto Architect Graham Smith wrote a thoughtful note in comments that included an idea worth considering:

“It is time for us to stop whining about our ineffective politicians and get out there with ratepayers groups, volunteer groups… and start getting our cherished buildings listed and designated. There are hundreds of streets and neighbourhoods across the Province that warrant HCD designation but no will to get them designated as such…

If I learned anything in this election its that the centre/right is more proactive whereas the centre/left expects the nanny-state to take care of everything and are upset when it doesn’t work out. Let’s all be proactive!”

If I have learned anything in my year and a half as President of the ACO, it is that property rights trump heritage rights in the minds of the centre/right. But our strength may be that we are, by definition, a conservative movement. We shall see.

Last week I asked for notes from members around the Province regarding the elections.

“In St. Thomas, the anti-heritage mayor was defeated by a 34 year old member of the municipal heritage committee. She is one of those who fought the demolition order for Alma College as an alderman, so will be in a better position now to champion our cause.”
Nancy Mayberry

“In St. Thomas, alderman Heather Jackson-Chapman was elected mayor, defeating Cliff Barwick. Heather has been the council representative on the municipal heritage committee and chair of Doors Open St. Thomas for the past two years. Heather personally gave tours of St. Thomas City Hall during Doors Open and steered the Doors Open budget through the council approval process.”
Laurence Grant

The ACO website can be found here.

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