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By KieranC.Dickson (registered) | Posted August 11, 2013 at 17:13:09
Under the Ontario Heritage Act, there is a public process for the designation of built heritage. The Act contains requirements for consultation and public notice. On a municipal designation, any by-law for designation must be addressed as a motion, providing an opportunity for public delegations, the public presentation of staff recommendations, and an open forum for discussion and debate. This open and transparent process is intended to result in informed decisions which are based on the merits after taking into account the many and perhaps competing considerations.
The described alternative of having behind-closed-doors dealings with the property owner is not satisfactory, in several respects.
First, by shutting out the public and the media, there are limits on accountability. The public cannot, for example, assess whether any concessions on the part of the City have taken into account the Downtown Master Plan or reflect the direction of the Gore Heritage Design Study. Were the persons in attendance even aware of these documents? Were the City representatives aware of the tools at their disposal to protect built heritage? Was appropriate regard had to the architectural and heritage merits? The public cannot know the answers to these questions because the meetings were in camera and, to my understanding, resulted in neither publicly-available minutes nor other documentation.
The second concern is that you are depriving the public of the opportunity to provide input. This email chain is no proxy for proper public consultation -- which should of course include the opportunity for citizens to make a delegation request when the matter is under consideration.
Finally, choosing to have exclusive meetings with an influential property owner may lead to public cynicism and perpetuate concerns that different processes apply to different persons.
While I appreciate that changing course from the closed-door dealings with the property owner and initiating an open public process may, as you put it, “turn the tables,” it is critical that this be done to restore public confidence. I understand that there is now some willingness on Council to support a motion for designation and I urge you to support this.
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