Homeowners win exclusion from heritage register

By Kirk Winter

Council listened to several deputations from citizens who didn't want the heritage designation for their homes.

Three deputations made by local citizens at the most recent city council committee of the whole meeting proved that with a little bit of research and the willingness to engage politicians, citizens can change decisions made by senior Kawartha Lakes staff about inclusion of properties on the heritage register.

Each year the city recommends numerous properties to be included in the heritage register. This year was no different, with a list of 50 properties covering a wide range of buildings and geographies in the municipality being put forward for council’s approval. Properties on the heritage register have a 60-day hold on demolition should a demolition permit be received by the city.

Despite assurances from the city, a number of the presenters also feared that inclusion on the register was the first step to a heritage designation that might impact decisions the owner can make regarding renovations or sale of the property for commercial development.

Jon Mocek and Emma Zukowska, owners of a century home on Sussex Street, returned from a summer vacation to find that their home was to be added to the heritage list. They did not really understand the ramifications initially of inclusion on the register.

Mocek, making a virtual deputation, shared with council that their home had already been broken into twice, and neither he nor his wife “would feel safe with their home on the heritage list.”

“I also don’t accept that my property value will go up either because of inclusion on the list,” Mocek said. “I actually believe that an unencumbered property is better than owning an encumbered property. We had no control over this decision. Our house is a hodgepodge of different styles from front to back and does not warrant inclusion.”

Mayor Andy Letham asked Mocek if he had been in communication with Emily Turner, the city economic development officer responsible for heritage, regarding the situation. Letham was told that “extensive” communications had been ongoing since the Sussex Street owners became aware of the possibility.

A second virtual deputation was heard from Reverend William Grey and Pat Stainland, both of whom are affiliated with St. Luke’s Church in Burnt River.

“We have real concerns about being included in the listing,” said Grey. “While the church takes great pride in its maintenance, we don’t see the church as a museum. It is primarily a seasonal property that closes for the winter. It is a location for much community service.”

Grey, who deals with property matters for the Anglican Diocese of Toronto, added, “Heritage listings become heritage designations. It is inevitable. That designation hampers upkeep, repair and renovations. We are baffled how we ended up on the list. The building is unremarkable.”

Grey also told council that to keep churches viable, many are working with developers who buy portions of their large lots to keep churches open and active.

“A heritage designation scares off development. I am not even sure that anyone from the city has even visited our site or looked inside,” Grey said.

Stainland said the letter from the city regarding the heritage register had been sent to a member of the congregation who is long dead.

The last virtual deputation from people unhappy with their potential inclusion in the heritage register came from Reverend Peter Mills of Christ Church in Omemee.

“We are respectfully declining your offer,” Mills said. “We see no advantages in this designation. We only see disadvantages down the road as we develop our property.”

After hearing the concerns expressed by Mocek, Grey, Stainland and Mills council made the decision to exclude these three properties from the 2021heritage register plus 24-30 Wellington Street in Lindsay and 127 North Street in Bobcaygeon.

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