Neighbours oppose Glasgow Street demolition
The Neighbours of Glasgow Street North community action group was formed on Wednesday Feb 3, 2016, in response to the planned demolition of 202 Glasgow Street North, Guelph, a 2,800 square foot Victorian brick home that was built in 1890. An application to demolish that beautiful dwelling was unanimously approved by City Council in November, 2015 with no input from long-time residents having been heard. In fact, because of the City of Guelph’s deeply problematic approval process, it was only months after the application was approved, that the neighbourhood learned of the planned demolition. Had it not been that the owner of 202 Glasgow Street North is seeking variances, which must pass through the Committee of Adjustment, the residents might never have been informed of the plans.
The Neighbours of Glasgow Street North will contest those variances, as they appear to contravene zoning by-laws. The graver concerns are about the process by which applications are made to demolish historic homes in Guelph. The process is both opaque and deficient and it does not respect the rights of affected neighbours, who feel the impact of such demolitions most keenly.
The Glasgow Street North eighbours group is strongly urging City Council to re-open debate on the proposed demolition of this home and address these deficiencies. The principal deficiency is the lack of a statutory obligation on the part of applicants (be they homeowners or developers) to notify the public of their plans prior to gaining the approval of City Council. With respect to applications for demolition, there is currently no such statutory obligation, and, in fact, applicants are simply encouraged by the City to post notices of pending demolition as a courtesy. Similarly, there is no obligation to notify neighbours of an application to remove a property from the Heritage Register. Our group says that this lack of a legal obligation for notification is a serious weakness in our municipal by-laws, one that can be far too easily, and is far too frequently, exploited.
Surely we have a right to participate meaningfully in open public discussion about development plans that may permanently alter our neighbourhoods. And surely that right must be assured by our city’s by-laws and protected by our City Council.
The variances sought for the new building will be contested in order to ensure that municipal zoning by-laws are upheld. Residents must work together to protect our city’s proud architectural heritage; and we must work to establish fair and respectful development processes. A city does not lose its character in one fell swoop but, rather, by creeping neglect, subtle discourtesy, one demolition, one variance at a time.