Bradley-Craig Barn, October 2015. Photo by Barry Gray.

COMMENT: Bradley-Craig demolition debate was constructive (somewhat)

ABOVE: Bradley-Craig Barn, October 2015. Photo by Barry Gray.

UPDATE: City council approved the demolition/relocation on Wednesday. The vote was 20-3, with councillors Leiper, Nussbaum and McKenney opposing demolition.

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Today’s marathon debate at Planning Committee on the fate of the Bradley-Craig barn was so long that councillors ordered in pizza, and one even fell asleep (I won’t name names).

In the end, they voted 7-2 for demolition, with councillors Tobi Nussbaum and Jeff Leiper opposing.  The current owner, Richcraft, plans to take apart the barn, number each piece, ship it to Munster, and re-build it at Saunders Farm.

The Bradley-Craig farmhouse will be retained as-is, but the rest of the land will be developed into mixed-use commercial, like what you see on the north side of Hazeldean Road.

I’m disappointed and I disagree with the decision, but there are a few positives.

1) We had a fulsome debate on heritage and healthy suburban development.  That’s the kind of conversation we need to have more often at City Hall.

2) Councillor Qadri put forward a motion adding several conditions to moving the barn that fill in some very big gaps in the original plan: The barn must be rebuilt within two years at Saunders Farm (meaning it can’t sit in storage indefinitely); city staff need to approve a more detailed plan for recording, dismantling, storage and reconstruction of the barn before it can be removed; and the Bradley-Craig farmhouse will remain a designated property.

3) There was some recognition from councillors that the city should do more to encourage improvements to heritage buildings. (I’ve written previously about how Ottawa lags behind other Canadian cities in heritage funding.)

4)  We brought the community together to rally behind a common cause.

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A few parts of Qadri’s motion are worrisome for people who are concerned about heritage:

AND WHEREAS Retrofitting the barn for adaptive re-use is a large financial undertaking which Richcraft has identified as not feasible nor reasonable for their businesses model; AND WHEREAS If the barn is not relocated it will remain vacant in the current condition for the foreseeable future as Richcraft has no intention to undertake any work at the barn other than the minimum as mandated by the Property Standards Bylaw to maintain; AND WHEREAS There is no legal mechanism available to require the developer to find an alternative use and repurpose the barn;

 

Up to now, City Hall hasn’t let owners off the hook just because heritage building adaptation may not fit into their business plans. How does Planning Committee say “no” to the next heritage owner who asks for demolition because it’s too much of an inconvenience to renovate it?  We’re on a very slippery slope here.

 

AND WHEREAS The Fernbank CDP, the Official Plan and the Provincial Policy Statement set clear guidelines for development in the urban area, which includes understanding that land within the urban boundary will be developed;

True, the barn is in the urban boundary, but that doesn’t mean you can develop the land without consideration of the existing natural or built environment.  Or does it?

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WHAT’S NEXT?

  • City Council still has to approve the demolition on Wednesday. It’s unlikely they’ll overturn Planning Committee’s decision.
  • I hope the community will be able to open some kind of dialogue with Richcraft about how the remaining land on Hazeldean Road will be developed.  (Saunders Farm has already reached out to us.)
  •  We’ll continue to push City Hall to find ways to encourage developers to respect heritage (carrot), and add more teeth to heritage regulations and by-laws (stick).
  • We’ll also continue to push for healthy development in Stittsville that respects our past and raises the bar on suburban design.

 

For now, go take some photos, enjoy the view while you can.  It will be a sad day for Stittsville a few months from now when our most prominent landmark leaves town.

 

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ONE LAST THING: I’m very satisfied that councillors gave this item their full attention. A three-hour debate at Planning Committee is rare.  They asked some tough questions to both residents and the developer. Most of the councillors took time to talk on the phone with the residents before the meeting. We met with Councillor Qadri in December.  Councillor Jan Harder, chair of the Planning Committee, met with us this week and had clearly done her homework with city staff on this file.


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One thought on “COMMENT: Bradley-Craig demolition debate was constructive (somewhat)”

  1. A sad day for Stittsville and Ottawa overall. It just goes to show that the money of rich development companies speaks louder than Heritage these days!

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