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Niagara Falls
Monday, April 15, 2024
Town wants to expand heritage registry before end of year
The town is planning to expand the heritage district in Old Town. EVAN LOREE

Province’s imposed expiring dates is causing problems for municipalities

In a game of tug of war with the province, Niagara-on-the-Lake municipal staffers are looking to tighten their grip on the town’s heritage assets.

Under advice from town staff, the municipal heritage committee approved plans to have more properties on the town’s list of heritage properties properly designated, before newly set provincial deadlines expire. 

Muncipalities are required to keep a register of properties designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, but it may also include non-designated properties if they are of heritage interest to the town.

With the passing of Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, in November 2022, the province introduced changes to the Ontario Heritage Act. 

One change requires towns designate all properties on their registers within two years or have them forcibly removed.

Under Bill 23, properties that are removed from the register cannot be returned to the list for at least five years, town heritage planner Sumra Zia told the heritage committee on March 5.

Listing properties on the town’s heritage register provides “interim protection from demolition,” Zia said in a report attached to the meeting agenda.

However, designation under the Ontario Heritage Act provides more robust protection.

According to the town’s website, properties with Part IV designation cannot be altered without the consent of town council.

“We’re under enormous amount of pressure with limited resources,” committee member David Snelgrove said.

He asked if the town had reached out to higher levels of government that could ease the workload with legislative support.

Chief town planner Kirsten McCauley said the town had spoken to the ministry of citizenship and multiculturalism official seeking for such support at the 2024 conference of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association.

The town made a similar request to the ministry at the same event in 2023.

Because the undesignated properties on the town’s register are set to expire in December, staff are looking to build a register full of new properties that have not previously been included on the list.

Zia emphasized that the undesignated properties on the list will be “completely removed” in December.

Before it can decide what makes the list for 2025, the town needs to collect data on its heritage prospects, she said.

She said the town would be setting up “working groups” consisting of members of the committee and qualified volunteers.

The groups will survey the town for properties that could be added to the heritage register. 

The data could then be reviewed by staff with support from Brock University, the NOTL Public Library and the NOTL Museum.

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