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Dec. 7, 2019 | Saturday
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Residents question benefits of heritage district preservation plan
Jesse Auspitz, Niagara-on-the-Lake's planner, said town is looking for public comments on the proposed Heritage Conservation District in St. Davids. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Niagara-on-the-Lake is still considering implementing a heritage conservation district in St. Davids, but some residents at a meeting Tuesday night said many homes in the area have little or no historical significance.

Andrew Dionne said he bought an abandoned house in the village about five years ago. He said it has no historical value but because it is located within the proposed boundaries of the heritage district, he won’t be allowed to renovate or build a new house.

“These houses are the cheapest houses like in every other city, these old wartime houses,” he told The Lake Report. “But mine is in this high-end neighbourhood so I’m stuck in this cheap house.”

Another St. Davids resident, Anne Sachar, addressed town staff and public saying some properties in the village don’t have any remaining historical significance.

She also said reminiscing about the past is not a solid reason for designation.

In 2017, the St. Davids Ratepayers Association asked the previous town council to designate a Heritage Conservation District.

The heritage district would “allow responsible development and re-development of the village while preserving its historical features,” said Mike Pearsall of the association.

“We’re pro-development but we want to maintain the character and the looks of those main roads where the heritage homes are,” Greg Dell, president of the ratepayers association, told The Lake Report.

Town councillors, Lord Mayor Betty Disero and regional councillor Gary Zalepa were on hand Tuesday and Disero told the audience there should be a discussion whether St. Davids has a characteristic that “we want to maintain.”

“Instead of working totally with horsepower, we need to work a little bit with mind power,” she said.

For the first part of an open house, town planner Jesse Auspitz, town’s manager of planning Eric Withers, and Mike Pearsall and Greg Dell from the St. Davids Ratepayers Association took turns speaking about the project.

After a number of meetings and discussions with the previous town councillors and Lord Mayor as well as with the heritage committee, the association was suggested to start a public consultation and gather comments from the public to see if there’s an interest in designating a heritage district in the village.

Auspitz said there were no official boundaries to the proposed district. The ratepayers association suggested, however, to designate the area on York Road between Tanbark Road and 100 metres east of Paxton Lane, and the area on Four Mile Creek Road between Creekside Drive and 400 metres north of York Road.

If approved, a study of the area will have to be done and the council may adopt a control bylaw to protect “the integrity of the area” while the study is ongoing.

When asked by one of the residents if there is anything to protect St. Davids heritage without designating the district, Auspitz said the village is still protected by the town’s secondary plan and urban design guidelines.

Auspitz couldn’t answer another resident’s question about how much exactly the project would cost nor did he provide an exact timeline as a study of the area and a number of tests will have to be done but said he was talking about years.

One York Road resident said he received a notice about the open house but he said he also owns another property on Sandalwood Crescent. Neither he nor his neighbours who live there received any letters from town.

“You don’t want 40 people that sign up for this survey that are either for or against it and then stirring council because they think that’s the majority,” he said. “I think the only way to get a majority is to make sure everybody is engaged.”

During the second hour of the open house, residents had a chance to share their comments one-on-one with councillors and town staff.

Residents have until April 25 to submit their written or online comments to the town. The town staff will prepare a report based on public feedback and council will then decide whether to proceed with the project.

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