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LETTER: What could Bill 23 mean for heritage buildings?

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Nov 23rd, 2022
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From BarrieToday Nov 22, 2022.
Letter to the editor

Sweeping changes are being proposed by the Ford government in Bill 23. Focusing on conservation, development charges, the Municipal Act, Ontario Heritage Act (OHA), Ontario Land Tribunal Act and Planning Act, municipal governments including council, planning departments and individuals will be losing decision-making powers under Bill 23.

The province will be looking to change Official Plans, including things like design guidelines, landscaping and site-plan controls for 10 units and under, allowing a third unit in an existing detached, semi-detached or row house if there is no accessory/ancillary structure on site. No development charges.

Individuals or groups will no longer be allowed to file appeals on planning decisions removing our fundamental right to appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal.

Municipal heritage registers are an inventory tool used by planning departments of heritage resources (buildings, natural landscapes, conservation districts, etc.) Changes happening under Schedule 6 of this bill are substantial and will not build homes any faster. How many of our heritage inventory has actually stopped a planning decision?

The province is looking to force existing and future listed properties to designate within two years of this bill being passed and, if not, they are removed from the inventory and may not be reconsidered for five years. Listed properties on the registry were and are approved by council, following eligible criteria set out under the OHA.

Designating a building takes time and research and no municipality in Ontario has the funding or resources to do this work in a two-year timeframe. Qualified heritage professionals are required to do the work. The cost and effort required is an unreasonable ask by this province.

This bill is looking to give the minister discretion to review and amend the category of provincially owned/occupied properties. This allows for an order in council to opt out of standards/guidelines if property is required for transit, housing, health/long-term care, and other infrastructure. The Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by order, exempt the province or minister from complying with standards and guidelines already set. What this does is opens the door for review and potential demolition of current designated provincially owned buildings to be removed.

Think Barrie Jail, Queen’s Park, or Osgoode Hall.

Barrie has hundreds of beautiful, relevant heritage homes that are a part of the affordable housing strategy, and beautiful landscapes that have the potential to be lost over time. If interested in learning more, or making comments, check out the links below. The first link is not for the faint of heart, but the second is a link to the Environmental Registry that allows for comments to be submitted either anonymously or by registering an account. Simply and easy.

Take the time to send a note to your MPP, Barrie Mayor Alex Nuttall and council with your comments. Get involved. This is our community and province that will be impacted. Let’s have a say.

Here is the link to Bill 23 and here is the link to review and comment. The commenting period ends Nov. 24.

Cathy Colebatch
Barrie

Read the letter here.

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