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May. 24, 2022 | Tuesday
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Forced designation likely to spark ‘a legal battle’
The property on 27 Prideaux Street is one of the three homes on Prideaux Street to be designated by town council under Part 4 of the Ontario Heritage Act. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Niagara-on-the-Lake council has approved a notice of intention to designate three properties on Prideaux Street under Part 4 of the Ontario Heritage Act.

During a meeting of council Sept. 16, Coun. Clare Cameron made a motion to move forward with the designation of three, separate properties on 21, 27 and 31 Prideaux Street, noting a compromise couldn’t be reached after discussions with the 27 Prideaux owner took place. 

“I see no other option that we can be able to preserve in any way components of the streetscape that are very unique for all of our country, aside from going forward with this,” she said. “I see no alternative. I see no signs of willingness to work together with this council and to acknowledge the special character of this town.”

The Heritage Act says municipalities may opt to designate properties that may have both interior and exterior heritage elements.

According to a staff report, all three properties on Prideaux Street are listed on the town’s Municipal Register of properties of cultural heritage value or interest. Being on the register provides interim protection from demolition as the owners have to provide a 60-day notice to a municipal council stating their intent to demolish or remove the structure.

In July, the 27 Prideaux Street homeowners, Colin and Sandy Black, notified council of their desire to demolish several structures on their site, including a detached garage and a small shed. One of the proposed suggestions also included bringing a garage to the front of the house, which raised concerns with the municipal heritage committee members.

On July 30, there was a meeting between the committee members, the homeowners and a neighbour living on 31 Prideaux Street, according to a staff report. Some concerns, such as in regard to the length of the garage, loss of "deep setback" of the three houses, the loss of vegetation and impediment of the view from the neighbour's land, were raised at the meeting.

A staff report indicated there has been a concern regarding garages as they’re “visually dominating the streetscape on residential streets.”

At the municipal heritage committee meeting on Sept. 10, committee chair Janice Johnston said she thinks there will be “a legal battle” in regard to the 27 Prideaux property.

“Strictly my opinion, I think it’s inappropriate to do a potential forced designation on a property which has requested renovation at 27 Prideaux. I think it’s inappropriate timing, just my opinion,” she said. “It’s going to be a legal battle.”

According to the staff report presented to the heritage committee, there is a cultural heritage value in the “early age and the Regency style” of the house on 21 Prideaux Street.

The “Servos-Jones House” on 31 Prideaux Street may also contain cultural heritage value in regard to people, such as James Aikins and Mary Ball Servos, who are significant to the community, the report said.

However, the Town doesn’t have a lot of information on the significance of the 27 Prideaux Street property, according to the report, but the architectural style “supports the character” of NOTL Historic District.

Lawyer Brian Duxbury, who was present at last Monday’s council meeting along with his client Black, tried to address the council but was denied to speak.

“Lord Mayor, this matter was not on the agenda. We checked the agenda very carefully. It’s being brought forward without notice. It’s not fair to my clients,” Duxbury said before the microphone at the podium was turned off.

“My clients are protesting this,” he added.

When asked by Coun. Erwin Wiens why the lawyer couldn’t speak, Disero said both the lawyer and his client didn’t come forward as delegates, therefore, they couldn’t address the council.

At this point, Duxbury and Black loudly expressed their opposition, saying “it wasn’t on the agenda.”

When contacted by The Lake Report this week, Duxbury declined to comment if his client was still opposing the decision.

31 Prideaux resident, Thomas Elltoft, said the biggest issue is preserving the streetscape on a historic street. He said it was the proposed garage going in front of the house that concerned him.

"I don't know what they (the Blacks) will do," he said. "Hopefully, they just come up with a new concept that preserves the front a little more but it's their decision, it's their house. I understand that. It's more (about) that streetscape and the community and why we all bought into the historic streets."

At the council meeting last week, Coun. Gary Burroughs also said he would prefer to see the whole Prideaux Street designated.

In the Sept. 17 interview with The Lake Report, Disero echoed Burroughs’ comments, saying it seems to her a lot of homes on Prideaux Street are heritage homes.

"It seems to me that we, at least, need to do the background work to determine what the heritage value is so that's why we gave notice of intention to designate," Disero said.

"I don't really want to spoil that area until we've determined whether or not there's heritage significance. So let's take a look, let's do it as quickly as we can and protect what we need to protect," she said. "I cannot understand why people would be opposed to the protection of heritage in a historical location. It's beyond me."

After a marathon council session on Sept. 16, councillors continued the meeting this week, Monday, Sept. 23. They approved Cameron's motion to send a notice of intention to designate to all property owners. 

If the homeowners don't come forward opposing the decision in the next 30 days, town council will pass three separate bylaws, designating each of the property.