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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Wednesday, September 28, 2022
Arch-i-text: More things to wonder about
The case of the disappearing foundation.
The case of the disappearing foundation. Brian Marshall

By way of full disclosure, in addition to Irish, Welsh, English and French contributors, my family lineage includes Seneca and Mississauga ancestors.

But, even if that wasn’t the case, I would still be a proponent of understanding and preserving Indigenous history on this land as well as the cultural and built heritage resulting from European immigration.

An important, dare I say vital, part of developing that understanding is derived from the discoveries unearthed by archeologists.

As a result, I believe every town, township, region and city in Canada should strongly encourage a policy of having archeology performed in areas of high potential prior to granting building permits.

Here in Niagara-on-the-Lake it is not only encouraged but required – and to this I say well done.

However, the town has gone one step further by requiring this work to be performed at the expense of the property owner, something I find very odd.

In the 1982 case of St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (trustees of) v. Ottawa (city), the Supreme Court of Canada ruled:

“The Ontario Heritage Act was enacted to provide for the conservation, protection and preservation of the heritage of Ontario. There is no doubt that the act provides for and the Legislature intended that municipalities, acting under the provisions of the act, should have wide powers to interfere with individual property rights. It is equally evident, however, that the Legislature recognized that the preservation of Ontario’s heritage should be accomplished at the cost of the community at large, not at the cost of the individual property owner, and certainly not in total disregard of the property owner’s rights.” (CanLII 60 (SCC), p. 591).

This precedent was used quite recently in a Conservation Review Board decision on a case the town itself was involved in, so it clearly remains valid in law.

The wording of this ruling is pretty clear as to the limitations of the act and, by derivation, associated bylaws. And that leads me to wonder if the town’s direction vis-à-vis archeology was ever vetted by a lawyer?

Moving on, let’s shift our attention to an odd situation that was brought to my attention by a regular reader of this column along Anne Street starting at King.

On King Street, the substantial brick-veneered wall that surrounds the Pillar and Post’s beautiful garden rests securely on a concrete foundation that sits proud of ground in strict accordance with the Ontario Building Code.

However, when one turns onto Anne Street, that foundation drops out of sight and is below ground level. This, in turn, means that courses of clay brick (not made to be in direct contact with soil due to its propensity for water absorption and subsequent deterioration) are buried below ground level in direct contravention of the building code.

Now, as a part of standard practice, any foundation constructed under a building permit is required to be inspected by a member of the town’s building department and receive clearance approval prior to being built upon.

I wonder if this foundation was, in fact inspected. If so, given the very obvious step-down below ground level, how did it ever receive approval?

Stepping over to the Region of Niagara, a couple of weeks ago in this column I questioned the regional authority’s logic in its apparent insistence on installing a roundabout in the centre of St Davids.

It is contextually wrong, horrendously expensive (compared to the alternative) and functionally inferior for that location.

It appears roundabouts are the “flavour-of-the-month” and so, too, is densification.

It seems to matter little that the town has met and exceeded its density targets (well into the future), putting more dwellings on less space is apparently the region’s mandate.

This direction is manifesting in recommendations to developers undergoing the approval process to increase their planned development density even to the point, in one case, of suggesting a contextually inappropriate apartment building be constructed within a development of single-family homes.

Of course, as government bureaucrats, such things as buyer demographics, marketability, community integration and the impact on existing streetscapes would have little or no relevance.

Still, regional councillors are elected by their constituents ostensibly to represent their interests (which overwhelmingly reject this level of densification). If this is true, why is the bureaucracy running amok?

This all, leaves me wondering: just who is actually in charge?