NOTL Council voted Monday night in Committee of the Whole to proceed with the recommendations of both the Town Municipal Heritage Committee and Town staff to immediately issue notices of intention to designate all four Rand Estate properties (144, 176 and 200 John St and 588 Charlotte Street) under the Ontario Heritage Act. Councillor Marie Bau-Coute was the sole dissenting vote.
The Municipal Heritage Committee has requested action from the Town on this for the last year (well before the Marotta group application for a hotel/conference/wedding facility in December). At its last meeting on May 8, 2018, the MHC clearly decided it was tired of the foot-dragging by the Marotta group, and urged Council to fulfill its obligations under the Town’s Official Plan, the Provincial Policy Statement and the Heritage Act and itself designate the Rand Estate properties under the Act. Staff supported the recommendation, which was before Council last night.
ERA Architects, one of the leading heritage experts in Canada, appeared on behalf of SORE last night to remind Council that (i) it was Council’s responsibility to designate the Rand properties irrespective of the Marotta group application, (ii) Council was late in doing so, as the designation should be in place before any action by Council/staff on the Marotta group applications so that it is clear how the designation affects the use of the property, and (iii) virtually all the information needed to complete the assessment of the properties and issue the formal Notice of Designation was already in hand (and the rest could be gathered quickly). A copy of the ERA delegation to Council on June 4 is below.
St. Catherines lawyer Tom Richardson, appearing for the Marotta group, did a good job of confusing Council, lumping together his client’s Planning Act applications and work undertaken for those applications, such as the heritage impact assessment being done for the Marotta group and the planned peer review of same, with the entirely separate, unrelated and long-delayed exercise of designation of the Rand Estate properties under the Heritage Act. As noted above, the Town’s MHC has in fact been recommending such designation well before the Marotta group applications for the Rand Estate surfaced. ERA’s reminder to Council that it is their obligation and duty, quite apart from any Planning Act applications, to designate the properties given their acknowledged significant heritage value since at least Leah Wallace’s 2011 staff report to Council on the Romance Inn, was no doubt helpful in keeping Council on track last night, in spite of Mr. Richardson’s delegation.
Mr. Richardson’s strategy also appeared to be aimed at keeping 200 John and 588 Charlotte out of the designation process, contrary to the MHC request to Council. Town planning director Craig Larmour helpfully reminded Council that all four properties are part of the Rand Estate. SORE also notes that the Marotta group’s own heritage planner included all four properties in her report, which identified significant cultural heritage assets on 200 John and 588 Charlotte.
We congratulate and applaud Council and staff on this long-overdue initiative. We and the rest of NOTL will be watching carefully next week to ensure Council follows through on last night’s vote.