Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Get involved with Meaford's Heritage Conservation District Study
Last night, a small group of Meaford citizens and business people learned how Meaford is taking the first steps to recognize and preserve some of the valuable historical character of the community. Meaford recently selected MHBC Planning to undertake a study for a Heritage Conservation District (HCD), and the Municipality and the firm held the first public meeting at Meaford Hall.
Under the Ontario Heritage Act, a municipality can designate a defined area or areas as an HCD. This allows municipal council to manage and guide change in the district, by adopting a plan with policies and guidelines for conservation, protection and enhancement of the area's character.
In the case of Meaford, we hope it will help to establish a process to evaluate requests for changes in the district, including modifications to buildings and demolitions, where we had none before. Currently, as long as an application for a demolition permit meets the Building Code and other relevant bylaws, it will be granted.
Within an HCD, other factors come into play. As the Ontario Ministry of Culture explains, an HCD allows for "a planning process that respects a community’s history and identity… [t]he adoption of a HCD plan as part of the designation process ensures that the community’s heritage conservation objectives and stewardship will be respected during the decision-making process."
As a property owner in an HCD, you don't have to be worried that you're forced to live centuries in the past, and you can't change your doorknobs without approval. The main benefit of heritage buildings to the community and the economy comes from the exterior of the building and the streetscape. Interiors are usually not included in designations.
That means you can do almost any interior renovation, just as if the building wasn't designated. And in the worst case, the rare time when a building's beyond repair, facade retention can still be a valuable option.
The first step in establishing an HCD is an HCD study. Using the initial boundary of Meaford's Community Improvement Area, and armed with additional information from Heritage Meaford and the Meaford Museum, a team of researchers has begun to research Meaford's history and note and inventory architecture and landscapes.
The study invites participation from members of the community, and MHBC is looking for people interested in participating on one of three working/focus groups: business and commercial, residential property, and heritage interests.
If you'd like to get involved with these groups, please send an email to Rob Armstrong, Director Planning and Building Services
, expressing your interest.