The Council decided that more time was needed to approve the Wellington Heritage Preservation District (HCD) plan.
After two hours of public comment and discussion in Thursday’s full-meeting committee, the Board endorsed Council member John Hirsch’s proposal to return the plan to staff for a report to address concerns and proposed amendments.
Hirsch stressed that the report and approval of the HCD plan should be achieved this summer, at this session of the Board.
Of the two delegations and seven comments made by members of the public, few were in favor of moving the Council forward with approving the appointment, and others had concerns about its implementation, specific areas, and particular wording.
Chancellor Mike Harper noted that some committee members were working on modifications to the plan to try to satisfy some of the comments made at the meeting on Thursday.
Chancellor Hirsch said it was important to have some coordination between the HCD plan and the Wellington Secondary Plan (SP), especially when it came to compromising people’s property rights.
“It would allay those concerns and end up leaving the ultimate control of decisions, such as demolition, building heights and setbacks, in the hands of the council, rather than being over-directed in the RSCB itself,” Hirsch said.
CAO Marcia Wallace noted that the changes involved a lot of technical information and will affect the livelihoods of many people.
“The report should go back to the board to explain the amendments, so that the public can read it and understand exactly what is being proposed, and to include the comments made today,” Wallace said, adding that it was possible that the report could go back to the board. To consider in July or August.
Chancellor Andreas Bulik said a plan was needed that would provide “certainty to people, but also flexibility to deal specifically with unintended consequences”.
“I don’t want to ignore concerns, but we need strong legacy policies, although it’s always about balance,” added council member Ernie Margoston.
The council will ultimately be the decision makers, he said, noting that heritage law in Ontario allows for appeals from the Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee (PEHAC) to the council, to the court, if necessary.
Chancellor Harper referred to Section 3 of the HCD plan as an important section.
He noted that demolition of contributing property is not permitted, unless there is a problem with the health and safety of the building (section 3.3).
“The kind of thing we’re thinking about is a mechanism that allows consideration of this proposal,” Harper explained. “For example, if a contributing property owner located in an HCD is proposing to demolish or remove any building or structure, a heritage permit must be obtained with rationale support for a heritage impact assessment, along with consultation.”
On issues of setback, Harper noted that changes to the wording could include, “Where deviations from this policy are suggested in relation to a forecourt setback, a Heritage Permit with supporting reasons is required, which may include a Heritage Impact Assessment.”
“We’re really looking forward to eventually setting up some kind of mechanism that recognizes the special circumstances because we understand that under the SP they’ve been given certain rights and expectations and we’re not going to take that lightly, we want to work with you,” he added.
Bray Heritage Consultants conducted research and study in the Wellington Heritage Conservation District to get to this point, and Carl Bray provided a brief summary of the work done, noting that this was the final stage of a long process that began in the summer of 2019.
He spoke about the public figure revealed at the stage of research and study, a brief discussion of the appointment, and the contents of the plan.
“One of Wellington’s main characteristics is its community and the ability of local people to be stewards of their community,” Bray said. “The idea of stewardship is ingrained, certainly in SP, but it’s really reinforced by the HCD plan.”
He said that the HCD plan not only provides the tools to manage change, but also talks about appropriate change.
“This accurate description is very, very important,” he said.
Bray said they looked at the general character of Wellington in a number of different classes, including subgroups, such different neighborhoods and regions, and the personality of those.
“Things that pop up over and over again were views of the lake, the tree canopy, and the Civic Center shopping mall,” Bray said. “You have the churches, the market, the city park, the village hall, the post office, and nearby you have a small commercial district with banks, a library, and a museum.”
He noted that the commercial core is too narrow and too low-scale.
“This is a village. It is not a town or a city, so a small pedestrian scale prevails, one- or two-story buildings, with the most important buildings being slightly larger, which is very typical of villages.”
Bray said Wellington is one of the few villages in Canada that hangs like a necklace with various objects along that necklace.
“It’s a very interesting development pattern, almost unique to this part of Ontario.”
Wellington is a linear development pattern sandwiched between the lake and farmland in the north (noting that some of this farmland will soon be redeveloped).
It has been noted that the boundaries selected include the greatest concentration of cultural heritage resources, of many types.
“HCDs not only give you the tools as a municipality, but as a property owner to understand how best to contribute to the character of the area, but also an idea that includes a holistic view of the place,” Bray explained. “It’s not just about a bunch of beautiful buildings.”
Bray explained that the HCD plan is a change management tool with mandatory policies and discretionary guidelines (which are not mandatory).
“A lot of people worry that they can’t do anything with their property once it’s identified. Routine maintenance, the kinds of things you normally do to maintain property, those that don’t require a heritage permit,” Bray said.
He noted that the advice in the HCD plan is discretionary.
“What it takes to get a heritage permit is actually the same as what it takes for other types of building permits for example, so you go through a certain process.”
In his appeal, Montreal resident and part-time county resident Anthony Lemke, with Wharf Lane Developments, said he has brought 13 different businesses to the city.
“It was SP and the confidence we had that our visions of something we wanted to share resonated with the community we were living in,” via Lemke, who said he was “shy when he saw HCD.”
He said the vision in the HCD plan emphasizes the current development pattern of smaller buildings located on large plots, with development directed so that Wellington remains a village, with a few buildings no more than two stories high with ample side and front yards to accommodate trees and gardens.
“Wellington residents want the village to grow into a vibrant, walkable, sustainable, full-service, year-round waterfront city, with a thriving business center located along a revamped main street; a growing city that respects its history,” said Lemke. “.
He noted that the HCD plan touches on two areas considered in the SP: the village core and the village corridor.
“These are the two areas that the special forces are targeting and that are creating the city that I just described,” he said. “In my opinion, we have a conflict of visions.”
“This document [the proposed Wellington HCD plan] It outperforms everything every municipality bylaw outperforms this document.”
He noted that the guidelines are mandatory.
“It’s important to understand that this tool exists, but let’s be careful about how much it is used.”
In his task force report, Michael Michaud, Director of Planning, noted receiving support from the Wellington County Business Association and the Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee.
With more than 100 HCDs in Ontario, Michaud notes, “studies have revealed that property owners have a high degree of satisfaction with the designation’s impact on their property values and economic development within the area.”
“HCDs are basically an expression of what locals want to preserve,” he said. “In practical terms, HCD is a tool that communities use to help manage change in ways that preserve and enhance those aspects of a place that local people value most.”
Michaud said the HCD plan encourages development, “but of a compatible kind.”
While the pandemic has hampered in-person public meetings, something noted by some of the comments from members of the public at the recent (virtual) public meeting, Michaud noted in his report that some people were unaware of the plan to designate part of Wellington under the HCD plan until recently. .
“There was discussion about the possibility of delaying completion of the HCD plan to allow more time for public consultation, but this option was considered problematic for two reasons,” Michaud noted. “First, although there was a significant gap in the project schedule due to the pandemic, there was extensive consultation in terms of the number of meetings and responses to emails and phone calls, far more than is required under the Ontario Heritage Act.”
The proposed appointment has been in the works for two years, since July 2019, and this meeting followed a lengthy virtual public meeting in early May which received significant public input and concerns. The first general meeting, also virtual, was held in November 2021.
“Based on the comments received, there is general support for the designation of the area,” Michoud’s report noted.
It was noted that some property owners were concerned about the potential impact of the plan on their ability to change properties.
Comments from the public and PEHAC have been revised with the draft HCD Plan amended, where appropriate, to provide clarity and context for its policies and guidelines, under the Ontario Heritage Act.
Furthermore, the importance of time was noted, particularly because of the developments currently underway for the lands north of the Millennium Path.
“Critical decisions are pending for issues such as improving roads and sanitation and these improvements could have a direct impact on the heritage features of the proposed area,” Michoud said.
Although there is no express overarching objection to the proposed Wellington County Heritage Scheme, there has been concern about some sections and some of the wording, particularly the extensive use of the word “must”.
“The plan is exaggerated and not sufficiently consulted,” said Lourdes da Costa. “The concept of the Wellington Heritage Plan is good, but this plan as it stands is not; it is not ready. Its intentions and consequences must be properly communicated to the landlords in order to affect them.”
Evan Nash noted that the Wellington District Business Association’s position is to postpone the decision on the Wellington HCD scheme due to the lack of opportunity for public contribution.
Dan Liming said due process has been followed with media meetings, including one-on-one.
“I don’t think the specific interests of the few should be allowed to override the common good of the broader community,” Liming said. “Deferment is fundamentally critical to rejecting HCD.”
Simon Fish said the proposal deserved proper credit. “I urge you to embrace the process today,” he said.
Diane Riley said she strongly supported the Commission on Human Rights, noting that due process was followed.
“We want to ensure a livable and healthy community for all those who live in our historic village,” Riley said. “It is not just about money, it is about quality of life and ensuring a future for all. Wellington will not be frozen in the past; this heritage plan gives direction and new avenues of creativity.”
Some pictures included in the report: