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A plan to save Main StreetWe asked Council to start a protective Heritage Study on Main Street. The answer will be decided at the upcoming budget vote.

If you haven’t heard from us in a while, it wasn’t because we’re feeling cozy. In the past few weeks, we doubled down on our efforts to save Main Street from being torn apart by redevelopment, through a new project in partnership with the Grimsby Historical Society.

This project stemmed from the fact that “character” and “heritage features” of Main Street seem to be a matter of large interpretation by developers, granted by lack of heritage planning tools in our Official Plan and Zoning by-law. These tools in the form of Heritage Conservation Districts and Cultural Heritage Landscapes, are provided by the Province under the Ontario Heritage Act and used by many other municipalities to ensure that planning decisions are made around their heritage resources and character, and not around intensification.

Talks about Heritage protection of Main Street ended in little or no action from previous Councils. Since the current Council made heritage preservation one of their seven strategic priorities, we are asking them to make good on that promise and give budgeting priority to a Heritage Study for Main Street, starting with the East section this year.

The benefits of getting this study underway are two-fold:

  • Short term, incompatible applications like the one at 133 Main Street East can be stopped through an interim control by-law, until a Heritage Conservation District Plan for Main Street East is adopted by Council.

  • Long term, the resulting Heritage Conservation District Plan for Main Street will greatly discourage other similar attempts, with little recourse for developers at an eventual LPAT appeal.

Our work resulted in a joint delegation that was presented by Ron Schroder of SaveMainStreet and Fran Chesney, President of the Grimsby Historical Society, both at the Planning and Development Committee and Council meetings in January.

You can watch the video from the Council meeting with Councillors' comments here: https://vimeo.com/386352708 (our presentation starts at 4 minutes into the video stream). Just in case you wonder what's going on with the slides halfway through, the PowerPoint application stopped working, leaving everybody in the audience with no visual support. Oh, well -- technology is great when it works!

At the bottom of this page you can find also a text version of our Council presentation.

Our request to the Town, that a Main Street East Heritage Study be started this year, has been referred to the budgeting process. This is a very encouraging outcome which shows consideration for the heritage features of our Main Street and for the concerns of residents regarding its preservation. However, moving from consideration to action requires that the Council includes this Study in the Town's 2020 budget. The decision will be made at the upcoming Council budget meeting in February.

We need your help to make this happen. Please ask your Ward Councillors to support the inclusion of a Heritage Study on Main Street East in this year's budget.

Together we can save Main Street from further destruction. Its character and history deserve to be preserved and celebrated as our community grows and evolves over time.

If you have questions or need help with your message, please contact us at info@savemainstreet.ca.

Council Delegation, January 21, 2020

Save Main Street + Grimsby Historical Society

We are the oldest town in Ontario. Incorporated in 1790, Grimsby will celebrate its 230th anniversary this year.

Maclean’s Magazine ranked Grimsby as Canada’s best small town in which to live. That’s national recognition of Grimsby’s unique character and small-town feel, as being the biggest benefits of our community. These are strong identifiers that most residents recognize and want preserved.

Our entire Main Street is a living reflection of Canada’s small-town history. Our Main Street has the largest number of pre-1812 residences in Ontario. They have established and defined the character of the town since its beginning.

All our Main Street includes or is part of multiple Cultural Heritage Landscapes identified in our Planning Department’s study titled “Grimsby’s Special Places”. These Cultural Heritage Landscapes show the historical value and importance of Grimsby’s Main Street. However, they need adequate protection in order to preserve that unique character.

Today, Grimsby’s Main Street is at a critical turning point. The rapid rate of development is placing pressure on all our cultural and heritage resources. Larger properties both private and commercial will continue to be aggressively targeted for inappropriate redevelopment, infill or intensification.

Despite our significant heritage sites and landscapes, prior Councils have failed to use available provincial planning tools to protect these resources. These tools also help manage and guide future change, enabling you to achieve your responsible development mandate.

So far the Town’s conservation efforts have been put into individual designations. These have been too slow, resulting in a patchwork of designated properties and providing minimal protection from inappropriate development throughout the Town

For example, Main Street East alone holds many structures identified as being between 70 to 175 years of age. Together with a multitude of cultural landscape elements, they form the unique Main Street East character that we need to protect. The present path continues to erode Main Street’s heritage & cultural landscape resources and encourages precedence to rule over character preservation in future planning decisions.

For many communities in Ontario that have been successful in preserving their heritage, the creation of Heritage Conservation Districts has been key to their on-going success.

The number of Ontario conservation districts has been growing steadily, mainly by the desire of most municipalities to protect their heritage resources from inappropriate redevelopment demands.

Since 1975, towns and cities across Ontario designated 134 Heritage Conservation Districts. As a result, over 23,000 properties are protected under the Ontario Heritage Act part V.

For example, Cobourg which is roughly the size of Grimsby has 4 large heritage districts with almost 600 protected properties. There are many heritage-minded communities such as those currently illustrated on screen.

A Heritage Conservation District provides adequate planning protection without having to designate each and every property.

Overall, a strong district plan supports preservation by discouraging incompatible development, while properly managing and addressing the change that is inevitable as our community grows and evolves over time.

Grimsby is the oldest town in the province but clearly it is among the furthest behind in its efforts to protect its historic build and cultural landscapes. The time has come to change that.

You have recently identified Heritage preservation as one of your seven strategic priorities. Main Street’s heritage value has been outlined in our Planning Department’s document “Grimsby’s Special Places”. Heritage protection of the Main Street is also identified in Grimsby’s Official Plan – section 8.15 b). But as nothing has been done, we continue to fall behind as outside development forces target Niagara.

Without your urgent commitment to adopt and implement actual heritage protection policies on Main Street, our community will be in a situation where there is not much left to protect.

To stop the irreversible erosion of Main Street’s unique character, we are asking the Town to move forward with what was discussed previously and establish Heritage Conservation District(s) along Main Street.

The benefits of a Heritage Conservation District are short and long term:

  • it offers immediate heritage protection where needed most, as early as the “study phase” through an interim control by-law
  • it is feasible financially, as the work can be split into smaller heritage studies
  • it provides efficient planning tools to achieve responsible development and heritage goals set by Council
  • all the resulting work can be used towards the future heritage masterplan

Such studies necessary to develop a heritage district along Main Street could be managed through a three-year plan, addressing the areas most at risk for redevelopment first:

  • 2020 – Main Street East
  • 2021 – Main Street West
  • 2022 – Main Street Downtown

Delaying will lead to more attempts at inappropriate infill, intensification and “Urban Design” that are incompatible with the existing heritage and natural features of our Main Street.

In closing, we respectfully ask that:

  • sufficient funds in the 2020 budget be allocated to undertake the necessary studies for the creation of a Main St. East Heritage Conservation District
  • that the terms of reference be expedited in the next couple of months
  • and that the study be outsourced to a specialized heritage company or public heritage consultant

You have continuously heard our community’s growing concerns about heritage and character loss. Heritage is a strategic priority. It’s time to show that our Town owns this.

There is an immediate pressure on our heritage resources of Main St. East. We need your concerted commitment not to defer, delay or compromise any further on this important matter and move this forward in a way that reflects a concern for what is left of the unique cultural and heritage landscape around us.

We have a great community who loves its heritage and small-town character. Please reach out to them. A community working group can supplement human resources and help staff with research for the necessary studies to be completed. Together we can make this happen

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