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It should come as no surprise that the string of attempts to block a study that doesn’t sit well with some developers continues. A letter to Town Council, full of misinformation and inaccurate statements was sent by the Niagara Home Builders’ Association & West End Home Builders’ Association.
It’s regrettable that these two large organizations who represent many reputable companies are engaging in deceitful statements and meddling into a matter that rightfully belongs only to the residents of Grimsby.
Without trying to make sense of the all underlaying motivations for this unusual letter, let’s set the record straight on the statements presented in it.
If Council decides to initiate a study of an area, the requirement under the Ontario Heritage Act is that the Heritage Grimsby Advisory Committee is required to be consulted. The Heritage Grimsby Advisory Committee discussed and advanced the motion to the Committee of the Whole and Council to initiate this HCD study at their October 6th meeting. Although not required by law, the motion did ask staff to provide comments before Council voted on the matter, which Planning Staff failed to do. The NHBA and WE HBA representatives acknowledge that "step 1 and 2 [of the HCD designation process recommended in the Ontario HCD Toolkit] have sufficiently been carried out".
Further, the Province’s flowchart on the process is crystal clear. The Provincial guidelines have no requirement for Town Planning staff to be engaged to initiate a study, nor for a staff report on the matter. Neither is a prerequisite, and therefore they are not in the Designation Process flowchart.
Heritage Conservation District Process outlined by the Provincial Toolkit
Following this process, The Heritage Grimsby Advisory Committee fulfilled their duties. If there was no Heritage Committee, then Council "could consult a Heritage planner or seek advice from a local heritage or community organization..." (HCD Toolkit pp. 17 & 18).
The NHBA and WE HBA representatives misquoted the law on insisting staff have to be involved in this process.
This heritage study was neither "abrupt" nor "a quick movement" (as stated later in the letter). Without rehashing that the appropriate process has been properly followed up to this stage, it seems that the NHBA & WE HBA representatives are not fully in touch with what has been happening in Grimsby this year.
A Main Street East heritage study has been under focused consideration for many months and has been the subject of numerous newspaper columns and social media interactions. To list just a few:
Significant discussions in regards to the study were held by Council when establishing the 2020 budget and on different occasions during summer meetings. Additionally, community groups have made delegations to Council asking for an HCD study for Main Street East and, subsequently, Council set aside the budget funds for a Main Street East heritage study at the start of the fiscal year.
Planning staff were aware of this study throughout the budget planning process, public presentations on requests for an HCD, and from HGAC meetings which they regularly attend. They had liberal time and opportunity throughout the year to weigh in at any time they wished.
A planning "report" is not required at this step of the process, let alone having it presented in front of the aforementioned organizations. We surely hope that Council or Planning staff is not swayed by the NHBA & WE HBA representatives who seem to insist they have a mandated right to this.
Our Official Plan Section 8.15, clearly calls for heritage plans and protection for this area, specifically "8.15 b) The protection of the Main Street corridor". As stated before, this study does not need Planning staff in order to commence, and it will follow rigorous requirements for an HCD study clearly set under the Ontario Heritage Act. Those requirements include researching the heritage value of the whole area, determining if, what and how to preserve it, and manage future change.
It is unfortunate that Planning Staff chooses to ignore the Official Plan, Council's strategic priorities for heritage preservation and responsible development and fails to recognize that under the new Provincial regulations, Grimsby’s Main Street East will be successfully protected long-term under a Heritage Conservation District Plan.
First, throughout their letter, NHBA & WE HBA representatives conflate the "Study area" with the "final HCD boundaries". The boundaries provided in the study by-law are just the area that should be studied.
NHBA & WE HBA representatives surely must know that the actual HCD boundaries are defined at completion of the Study in Stage 6, as shown in the Province’s Tool Kit.
The process has a study look at a contiguous area and determine heritage and cultural values within it. The careful examination of the historical and cultural facts provides the study output, which recommends what is of value and what does not qualify under the provincial guidelines, suggesting the HCD boundaries.
Second, the Official Plan calls for the "protection of the Main Street Corridor". It does not place limits on what should or should not be looked at for protection.
Additionally, the 2015 Town's Planning Staff report "Grimsby's Special Places", indicated that Main Street East between Robinson St. and the Town of Lincoln boundary contains multiple Cultural Heritage Landscapes, some which extend to the Town border. In the same report, Planning also identified the need to expand the identification and protection of important cultural heritage landscapes.
As this was also to assist with heritage designation evaluations, and with the Official Plan mandate for protection of the Main Street corridor, it was meaningful for the whole east area to be fully evaluated in this study. It is clear that staff's work of record was the base for determining the boundaries for the study.
We invite these representatives to read our Official Plan. A simple search finds this information throughout Section 8 entitled "CULTURAL HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY" where HCD provisions are made for both the Downtown core and the town districts in general.
This is another statement where an "HCD Study" and "HCD Plan" are conflated. The Ontario Heritage Act clearly states that publication to the property owners about the commencement of the study occurs within 30 days the study decision is made by Council. There is no requirement under the Ontario Heritage Act to engage "industry stakeholders" or any other interests with the notification of a study - only property owners.
Ontario Heritage Act
40.1 "Notice of by-law
(3) If the council of a municipality passes a by-law under subsection (1), the council shall, within 30 days after the by-law is passed, cause notice of the by-law,
(a) to be served on each owner of property located in the heritage conservation study area and on the Trust; and
(b) to be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality. 2005, c.6. s.29
An Interim Control-by law under section 40.1 of the OHA, is provided as an option for Council to ensure the integrity of the area while the study is progress. Council can decide in debate if an interim control by-law is best to be put in place to protect vulnerable areas within the study boundaries.
However, the law requires consultations with the public during the "HCD Plan" stage of the process to designate Main Street East. That requirement for public engagement is still far down the road of heritage protection.
That was not the discussion, that was one Councillor's comment. The actual subsequent discussion at the Committee of the Whole showed the Councillor's comments were baseless. When asked by Council to provide specifics or the source, the comments could/would not be substantiated and were shown not to be credible.
NHBA & WE HBA should not lower their standards by repeating and representing unsubstantiated hearsay as facts.
It’s baffling why there is such a strong reaction from the representatives of these organizations to a heritage study that evaluates the significance of a historic area in a historic town, while plenty of other HCD studies were carried in other municipalities.
Unfortunately, this ill-informed letter sent by NHBA & WE HBA representatives puts their whole membership in a bad light. One would wonder if they consulted their members before putting of all their reputations on the line.
Council meeting agenda is available here: grimsby.civicweb.net/filepro/document/123151/Council%20-%2002%20Nov%202020.docx
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