Where heritage gets in the way of reasonable lifestyle

Posted September 11, 2013

A letter writer complains that it is a mistake to demolish the Wilson farmhouse that now sits in the middle of a designated park in Guelph’s northern reaches.

The chief of the Heritage Department of the city of Guelph testified at a hearing that the farmhouse was a bonafide heritage site and should be retained. Coun. Andy Van Hellemond, who represents citizens in the area, consulted with residents to determine their views. He worked hard to convince the city that the building was derelict and would cost more than $350,000 to restore.

Furthermore, the majority of resident’s wanted it removed as it was an eyesore and dysfunctional.

Despite his efforts, the city held fast until this week when staff recommended demolishing the building.

This is reminiscent of what happened with the Guelph Heritage group, led by Coun. Leanne Piper, that saved the derelict Loretto convent located on someone else’s property. That exercise cost taxpayers more than $16 million plus to renovate it into a civic museum.

Somehow, saving buildings that are perceived to be of value for future generations to understand our beginnings has become an obsession with heritage aficionados. It often overrides common sense and the wishes of the people.

A certain faction of this city council have made it their business to spend taxpayer’s money pursuing their dreams of preserving the bricks and mortar of our past. So much so that the city now has a paid staff of six Heritage employees dedicated to that task.

There is definitely a place for preservation of historic buildings and to receive public input, pro and con. But it should be managed by the city Planning Department where building and architectural values are professionally considered.

This designated public park is for the use and enjoyment of the residents in the area. That’s what they expected when they purchased their homes. To suggest the park is too large for the area is a specious argument.

Andy’s Ward Two bench mate, Ian Findlay, still sticks to renovating the building. But then his interests lie downtown where he operates a business. After ten years, he thinks there should be more consultation. He disputed that the majority of neighbours wanted the building demolished saying he had heard privately from those wanting a restoration.

Why didn’t they speak up if they were so convinced of their cause? Isn’t that the way democracy is supposed to work?

The letter writer should understand that all politics is local. If you don’t participate, you don’t count.

Kudos to Coun. Van Hellemond for his efforts to do the right thing.

Bring on the demolition crew.

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17 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

17 responses to “Where heritage gets in the way of reasonable lifestyle

  1. boomer

    Ian Findley? Does he even get to the northern reaches of his ward?
    I remember Vicki Beard not knowing where the Guelph Country Club was when the club was severing land at Stevenson and Waverley-yet she ate up 1/2 a council meeting fighting to save the trees on the proposed lots.

    • Boomer: And we know what happened to her. As for Mr. Findlay, he represents Ward Two but his heart lies in Ward One (downtown). That’s where he should run in 2014 if does want to be re-elected.

  2. boomer

    Most of these decisions are pure common sense – take away personal agendas, special interest groups etc. and picture is usually quite clear.
    Bring on a council that treats their portfolio like a business and not a game.

    • Boomer: See lastest posting about how the city has run into a $2.4 million budget deficit, year to date. Last year the city exceeded its budget by more than $10 million. It was the fourth year in a row that spending had exceeded budget. Once again the Farbridge administration has proven it is incapable of operating a financially stable and responsible government. They run this city like it is the magic kingdom resplendent with Mickey, Goofy and the Duck.

  3. Glen N. Tolhurst

    Talk about building a bureaucracy.. 6 full time heritage employees. Absolutely mind boggling!! 12,000 plus hrs/year diddling about heritage stuff! How about if those who want to save some old building “put some skin in the game” and pony up their own funds for their agendas rather than suck money out of citizens pockets?

    • Glen N. Tolhurst: That giant sucking sound you hear is our tax dollars going into projects that voters never asked for or needed. Oh, give me a home where the bicycles roam and the skies are not cloudy all day! Fixing this mess will take more than a higher power.

  4. BS

    Can you please provide the source for your “the city now has a paid staff of six Heritage employees ” comment. I find that hard to believe.

    • BS: Check it out on the city website.

    • BS

      Hi Gerry – I looked on the city website and the only reference I can find is for 1 senior heritage planner. I would appreciate it if you could provide me the link. I want to email my councillors to complain about how ridiculous it is to have 6 heritage staff.

    • BS: Have you tried the telephone? My info is there is a dedicated heritage department of six staff. Good luck complaining to most councillors.

    • BS

      Hi Gerry, As suggested, I did use the telephone. This is only one heritage planner and an assistant. I think you should correct your comment.

    • BS

      Hi Gerry, I thought I was pretty clear and did not mean to offend. If you want to be critical of the current administration, you will have far more credibility if you get your facts correct. If you don’t, it makes it hard to believe what you say. I think you should correct your post.

    • BS: The only credibility at stake is yours. You do not give your real name nor your obvious association with the Heritage hawks who love spending taxpayer’s money. Oh! Did I get that wrong? Spending more than $16 million on a derelict building on someone else’s property for a civic museum contributed to the failed promise of a new downtown library. You and your self-interested people have contributed to the serious financial state of our city. Stay tuned there are more facts to come. Information that demonstrates how this administration has spent and wasted taxpayer’s money in the past six and a half years.

  5. Paul

    We have to thank the Developers for EXPOSING the hypocrisy of Farbridge and her cabal on the topic of Heritage Properties. It was brilliant of them to donate the Parkland including the derelict Wilson/Ingrid farm house to the City.
    Of course they figured it out. Like the former farm house on Paisley Road they figured that the Heritage Hounds in the City would crucify any private owner who asked for a demolition permit. So they gave the white elephant to the city as a GIFT, The Heritage Hounds of Council realizing that they were “Hoist on their own Petard” tried to sell the property to some ignorant private citizen. ONLY SUCKERS NEED APPLY. And there were NONE!!
    This created a Dilemma for the Heritage Hounds and supporters on Council. The 6 Heritage staff should all be declared redundant and their employment terminated. Unfortunately not while Farbridge is in control!.
    But only a year until the next Municipal Election and lets hope by then that the voters have smartened up, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!
    It is time to get rid of the wastrels on Council. That includes Findlay, Hoffman, Piper, Bircher, Farbridge, Wetstien and the two turncoat Tories Dennis and Guthrie. Count them up, these are the 8 Councillors who provide the Mayor with control of Council. Add Maggie and it gives the Mayor 9 votes. She has indicated that that she will not run again, but I will believe that next year when nominations close.

    • Paul: Remember when the heritage bunch protested about demolishing the Mitchell farmhouse? Well, it was taken down, brick by brick and now sits in a city yard on Victoria Road. And they call this heritage?

  6. Paul

    Yes I recall that protest. Funny but the Farbridge Fuzzy thinking supporters went ballistic over that and led by the limited thinker James Gordon, a strong supporter of the Mayor and the free lunch society, formed the Guelph Cynic League and through a series of secret coffee meetings roused the supporters of the Mayor as well as politically uninformed voters to get rid of Mayor Kate and all the right wing thinkers on Council. That was a very sad day for Guelph as evidenced by the failure to balance any budget in the last few years.
    The hypocrisy of that bunch is that they feel that it is ok to slap a heritage designation on any property in private hands which means a long and expensive battle for a demolition permit.
    But let a developer transfer a possible heritage property to the City as part of a parkland dedication and watch how fast a demo permit is issued! I hope that more developers transfer White Elephant Properties as part of their parkland “contribution”.

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