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Historical Society concerned about Bill 23 impacting heritage preservation in Huntsville
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Historical Society concerned about Bill 23 impacting heritage preservation in Huntsville

Posted: 2024-03-26 07:17:42 By: thebay

The Huntsville and Area Historical Society (HAAHS) expressed concerns about Bill 23 impacting community heritage preservation, in the March 25, 2024, meeting.

According to a report by the Ministry of Citizenship and Multiculturalism regarding the Heritage Conservation of Ontario, the goal of the new Bill (More Homes Built Faster 2022 Act) “aims to ensure that cities, towns, and rural communities grow with a mix of ownership and rental housing types that meet the needs of all Ontarians.”

The report indicates that the Bill impacts the Ontario Heritage Act because it changes how heritage properties are identified and conserved and eliminates established barriers for housing development.

Changes to the Heritage Act include how municipalities can manage and designate heritage properties and Conservation Districts. For instance, the Town has 188 properties that need to be designated by January 2025 or they are removed from the list for 5 years and are at risk for demolition during that time.

The HAAHS requested that Council consider having a staff liaison responsible for heritage properties as the Town doesn’t currently have a Heritage Committee, a Councillor to work with an HAAHS executive, provide the Society with free admission to Muskoka Heritage Place, and create incentives for people that own designated heritage properties.

For instance, Lake of Bays provides a 40% tax rebate for designated heritage property owners, and Gravenhurst has a Restoration Grant offering 50% for up to $7500, indicated HAAHS representative Katrina Cotterchio.

In their report, the HAAHS indicates, “We want to collaborate with the Town to create a comprehensive plan to retain our built heritage.”

The report adds that they also want to share resources with the Town to increase the Town’s cultural tourism.

It continues, “We recognize that even if built heritage sites can’t remain, they deserve recognition for their impact on the history and progress of our Town.”

Cortterchio emphasized concern about the push for development putting a burden on local heritage properties “at risk of being lost.”

Councillor, Jason FitzGerald, discussed the importance of maintaining the historical characteristics of the Town, especially downtown, which he referred to as “the historical heart and soul.” He added, “We lose that, we lose cultural tourism.”

He also expressed concern about potentially losing the properties on the heritage list if they don’t meet the deadline to get them designated. He said, “Anything can happen with these properties on the list that aren’t designated.”

Council agreed to direct staff to consider options regarding the HAAHS requests and report back to Council in an upcoming meeting.