Implied yes? Council approves four more heritage designations

Staff and councillors, for the most part, are assuming no response is implied approval as it continues to designate heritage properties in Fort Erie.

Councillors at the July 8 council-in-committee meeting approved four separate staff reports that recommended the heritage designations. A fifth property was originally on the agenda, but taken off before the meeting.

All told, councillors accepted reports recommending heritage designation to the following properties:

  • 168 High Street
  • 400 Holloway Bay Road South
  • 45 Princess Street
  • 487 Niagara Boulevard

A report for 912 Cherry Hill Boulevard North was removed.

While the reports were mostly approved without much discussion, there were some questions about the extent to which the Town should seek a property owner’s approval before designating. Explicit approval is preferred, however, in some cases staff never received a response despite multiple attempts.

“If you are that concerned about your property not being designated and the municipality is spending a year and a half–I’d almost go so far as to say begging you for comment to find out where you stand–and you don’t offer up any comment at all, I take that as an implied yes,” said Councillor Nick Dubanow.

Staff did receive an explicit approval from one of the properties, and also worked with the owner of another property to clear up some initial concerns. However, others offered up no response despite the Town sending multiple letters through registered mail.

“We have contacted the owners by email, phone, and letter wherever the information is available,” added Junior Community Planner Kimberlynn Smith.

Councillor Ann-Marie Noyes said she’d prefer to get an explicit yes before voting on a designation.

“I’m just wondering how we can get there in regards to either getting a definite yes, which I think you probably will get, or a no,” she said.

There is an appeal process that property owners can undertake following a council decision to designate.

“Property owners have appeal rights under the Ontario Heritage Act. After publication (of the notice to designate) there is a 30-day period for objections,” Smith said.

Once the bylaws are officially approved there’s another 30-day appeal process.

Heritage designation provides protections to properties and buildings that have historical and cultural value. Municipalities across Ontario have been combing through their local heritage registers–lists of potentially important properties that haven’t been designated–to determine which should be protected.

This is because part of the Province’s effort to build more homes includes a deadline where properties could be removed from the register if there’s no intention to designate approved by January 1, 2027.

The provincial government recently extended the deadline from 2025 to 2027, giving towns and cities a little more breathing room.

To support owners of heritage properties, Fort Erie maintains two programs.

The first is a tax rebate program that refunds up to 40 per cent of property tax on the assessed value of a property up to $500,000 of assessed value.

The second is a grant program where the Town will cover up to 50 per cent, to a maximum of $10,000, for “work performed to the identified heritage features and attributes of a designated property.”

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