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Friday, June 14, 2024
Resident looks to build new house next to historic homestead
Bruce Harvey, current owner of the William Steward Homestead, hopes to build a second house on the property at 507 Butler St. Somer Slobodian

The William Steward Homestead on Butler Street might be getting a new neighbour. 

Bruce Harvey, the current owner of the homestead, has asked the town to rezone the property so he can legally build a new house beside 507 Butler St.

The land is occupied by the historic William Steward Homestead and a small shed. 

The homestead is a heritage designated property and is therefore protected from redevelopment by the Ontario Heritage Act.

If the town approves the rezoning application, Harvey will then seek approval to sever the lot in two so he can build a single-detached dwelling. 

The proposed house will be about 1,400 square feet in size and 20 feet high. 

“I don’t want a monster house. I want a story and a half house that is not any higher than the William Steward House,” said Harvey, who over the years has built a number of small homes in NOTL neighbourhoods.

“I don’t want the house to dominate the William Steward House,” he added.

The historic homestead will remain on the second lot, where it will continue to be rented to his current tenant.

The heritage building was named after William and Susannah Steward, who lived in the house from 1834 to 1847. 

During the years they lived there they sold parts of their property to other Black settlers, creating what’s known as NOTL’s “Coloured Village.”

The property’s connection to the Coloured Village, the Underground Railroad and slavery is what makes it historically significant to NOTL. 

According to the planning justification report submitted with Harvey’s application, the homestead “is historically significant as one of the few surviving intact examples of houses built by and for Niagara-on-the-Lake’s early Black settlers.”

Harvey also gave the town a heritage impact assessment and a streetscape study to support his application.

The streetscape study concluded that the new house will be compatible with the surrounding area. 

If approved, the heritage impact assessment says the homestead will not be “physically impacted by the proposed severance and construction of a house on the new lot.”

A temporary protection plan will ensure the homestead isn’t damaged during construction, which cannot start until the plan is done, the assessment says.  

The homestead was owned by the Niagara Foundation from 1999 to 2009. The organization purchased the property to save it from development and restored the exterior to its original form in 2006.

Also in 2006, the foundation had the property rezoned as institutional with the intention of using it as a museum. 

“But that turned out to be not very practical,” said Harvey.

In 2008, the foundation submitted an application to sever the lot. But it was denied.

The committee of adjustment at that time said it would have created two of the smallest lots in the area and it wouldn’t fit in. 

Harvey, a former member of the foundation, purchased the house in 2009. 

In 2013, council gave him a heritage permit to “sever the lot from the existing Part IV designation” and create a new lot, says the planning justification report. 

“They outlined two key criteria for approval conditions,” said Harvey.

The design of the house needed approval by the municipal heritage committee and the committee of adjustment needed to OK the proposed severance. 

Harvey hired an archeological firm to complete stages one, two and three archeological assessments to see if there was anything of cultural significance buried on the lot. 

The digs found what Harvey called “William Steward’s dump site.” 

No further stages needed to be completed. 

Next, council will review his application at its committee of the whole meeting on Feb. 14. 

If approved, Harvey’s next step will be to go before the committee of adjustment and get permission to sever the lot.

“I’m just taking it one day at a time,” said Harvey.

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