Fort Erie supports call for extension to heritage designation deadline

While it may not be as pressed for time as some of its neighbours, the Town of Fort Erie is supporting a call to extend the deadline for heritage designation.

Councillors approved supporting a request from the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) that calls on the Province to give municipalities an extra five years to decide which properties they intend to designate under the Ontario Heritage Act. The current deadline, set by the Province in 2022, is January 1, 2025.

“I think this is a very important letter to send out to protect our (province’s) built heritage,” said Councillor Nick Dubanow at the March 18 council meeting. “I think we’ve done a fantastic job of, here in town, getting our properties to the point of listing.”

However, he said that’s not the case elsewhere, with some municipalities having to go through huge lists of potentially significant heritage buildings and deciding which should be given heritage designation.

As part of a wider effort to encourage more residential builds, the provincial government amended the Ontario Heritage Act (OHA) in 2022. Under that amendment, properties listed on a municipal register as of the end of that year will be removed from the register next January, unless council gives notice of intent to designate it under the OHA.

Municipal heritage registers have been used to keep track of culturally significant properties that may not meet the threshold of heritage designation, or where more research is needed to decide if designation should happen.

According to a letter from the ACO to Premier Doug Ford, the change “affects some 36,000 listed heritage properties…in over 100 municipalities across the province.”

Under the new rules, should a property lose its status, it can’t be relisted for five years.

“Automatically removing listed properties from the registry in less than 11 months will encourage demolition of existing and affordable housing alternatives at a time when we need them the most,” the letter reads.

Dubanow said people don’t need to look too far to find examples of “amazing architecture” that was lost in the name of development. He said Hamilton in the 1960s lost some of its most significant buildings. Protecting heritage buildings, he suggested, is a way to make development and growth more tenable.

“I’ve always said the way to move forward is to preserve our important past,” he said.

The resolution passed by council directs Mayor Wayne Redekop’s office to “promptly send a letter to Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, and Michael Ford, Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism, requesting that Subsection 27(16) of the Ontario Heritage Act be amended to extend the above-noted deadline for five years from January 1, 2025 to January 1, 2030.”

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