This Week at Council: Heritage Designation Re-Debate and Goodbyes!

The day after Halloween offered at least one scare for anyone worried about heritage protection in Guelph. The last two meetings of the 2018-2022 term of council heard the objection of a heritage designation passed last summer in one, and then had one last moment of togetherness in the other. So let’s take a moment and recap how this very busy term of city council came to a close.

Special Meeting of City Council – November 1

Not quite an emergency meeting, but a matter of immediate importance needed to be addressed before council rose for the last time this term. The property owner of 50-60 Fife Road had filed an objection to the heritage designation passed by council this summer, and December is too late to hear the object.

To recap: council approved the heritage designation of key features of the tower on the former home of Guelph businessman and mayor F.J. Chadwick, which was on the heritage list but wasn’t designated. The features in question were elements of the tower, and council approved their protection and reuse for some kind of commemoration on the property while the rest of the house was to be torn down to make room for 18 new affordable units.

But that was the deal in the summer. Howard Kennedy from UpBuilding!, the property owner, told council that the cost of protecting the heritage elements is not the $20,000 bill they were estimating, but will cost more than $100,000, and that doesn’t include the consultants and architects. The house itself, including the tower, is in much worse condition than it originally appeared, Kennedy said, so there’s really, in essence, nothing worth saving.

After Kennedy delegated, council heard from Heritage Guelph chair P. Brian Skerrett who said this was a process discussion and not a matter of heritage versus housing, as the debate was being framed. He reminded council that Heritage Guelph wanted the entire tower designated, and that UpBuilding!’s own consultant said that the tower met at least one of the criteria for heritage designation. (City staff said it meets two.)

After the delegations, Councillor Dan Gibson asked about options. GM of Planning Krista Walkey said that council can designate or withdraw the notice. If they withdraw, a demolition application could be brought, and council would have to do that work to consider the application later.

Gibson wanted to move a recommendation to pull the designation, but Councillor June Hofland put the original staff recommendation on the floor in order in to make some comments, which ratcheted up the council friction when Guthrie Mayor Cam Guthrie noted that Gibson already announced his intention to make the first motion. Councillor Leanne Caron said Hofland made a motion fair and square and seconded it. “Fine, if that’s the way you want to do it,” Guthrie said noting that the motion was in order.

After getting some more questions answered about next steps, the battle lines were laid out. Some councillors said this was a matter of procedure, and the motion met all the requirements in the Heritage Act. Others said that the cost of preserving heritage in this instance was an impediment to getting more rent-geared-to-income housing in the city. Others merely noted that this seemed like a lose/lose situation.

The vote on the staff recommendation failed 6-7 with Allt, Gordon, Salisbury, Downer, Hofland, and Caron voting in favour. Gibson with Councillor Mark MacKinnon put on the floor a motion to revoke the designation, which passed in a 7-6 vote.

In one last attempt to save some portion of the Chadwick House, Caron proposed a motion to make a condition of the demolition a request to the property owner to salvage heritage materials to create a commemoration and a plaque to the old building. Some of the councillors who voted to demolish the building didn’t like the wording about making it a “condition” of demolition, and Councillor Mike Salisbury observed that such a motion was moot anyway. “It’s a Hail Mary to deaf ears,” he said.

Despite some wordsmithing to make the request sound more optional, the motion failed 5-7.

Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.

Last Meeting of City Council This Term – November 1

A scheduling snafu seemed to make the Team Ontario Lacrosse Champions unavailable for their own medal presentation, so the final meeting of the term was all about honouring the outgoing council. For the first time since just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, most of the chairs around the council table were full. Only Bob Bell beamed in via Webex for his last meeting.

Mayor Cam Guthrie went around the horseshoe and honoured Mark MacKinnon, Mike Salisbury, June Hofland, James Gordon and Bell in turn, and offered them each a memento for their time on council. After that, each of the outgoing councillors took their turn to offer words of wisdom for the next council, or just words of thanks to all the people that helped them over the years. At least a couple of councillors had words of warning. (You can read the transcript of all their last words here.)

After that, the 2018-2022 Guelph city council adjourned for the last time.

Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.

The next meeting of city council is the inaugural meeting of the next term on Tuesday November 15 at 6:30 pm. See the agenda here.

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