Interesting discussion today at City Hall around the impacts of heritage designation, and a great example of a creative compromise.
A group of seven therapists want to transform the Flewellyn-Jones house into a wellness centre, treating people with post-tramautic stress disorder (PTSD) including Canadian soldiers.
The therapist group was close to finalizing a purchase of the property from the Jones family late in 2015, but put the deal on hold when they found out that city staff was recommending heritage designation for the 19th century stone house and adjacent apple orchard.
(My bias: I suggested to city staff about a year ago that the Flewellyn-Jones house might be worthy of heritage designation, and provided them with some research. )
The home’s current owner is Dorothy Jones. She’s almost 90 years old and has owned the house since 1962. Her daughter Susan Kelly represented her at Thursday’s Built Heritage Sub-Committee meeting at City Hall.
“The house is now in terrible condition and needs to be replaced,” Kelly told the committee. “We have buyers who are interested in renovating the house. There is a significant financial implication if this is designated. If the orchard is designated, it means everything stops and the buyer walks.”
But the committee heard a slightly different story from the buyer. Consultant Jen Hassani represented the therapists the meeting.
“We don’t take issue with the heritage designation provided that it applies to the exterior only,” she told the committee.
Some of her group’s concerns:
- Would heritage designation prevent them from adding handicap accessibility as part of an extension at the rear of the building?
- What options would there be to deal with the building’s foundation? Hassani said that there are trees growing out of the foundation and that the house needs a lot of TLC.
Councillor Marianne Wilkinson confirmed that heritage designation only applies to the exterior, and that the buyers would be free to renovate the interior as they wanted. There would be no roadblocks to adding accessibility.
“It’s really important that people realize [heritage designation] doesn’t stop you from doing things. I had my church designated heritage. We can actually get grants to get the work – she [Mrs. Jones] can actually get some funds to help do what she wants to do,” said Wilkinson.
As for the financial implications of heritage designation, Wilkinson said: “The value of the property has increased significantly because it’s now in the designated urban area. The value has probably quadrupled because the City and OMB made the decision that it’s urban rather than rural. Some people pay more for heritage buildings.”
Then, Wilkinson put forward a wordy motion to capture a compromise brokered prior to the meeting between city staff and Hassani’s group:
Translated: Let’s assess the building’s foundation. If it needs replaced, we’re ok if you build a new foundation closer to the apple orchard, and move the house there. The orchard is important and we want to keep as much of it intact as possible for the future development. Putting the house closer to the orchard will give you more flexibility to develop the property. (Clear as mud?)
The motion passed unanimously, as did a recommendation to give the home heritage designation. Next up: Planning Committee will consider the issue on January 26.
Hassani says the purchase of the property is on hold until the heritage issue is decided. “Once we know which way everything is heading on the heritage front we plan to purchase the property and apply to re-zone it as LC5 (local commercial zoning),” she said.
COUNCILLOR MARIANNE WILKINSON:
“It’s re-purposing the building in a positive way.”
“If it’s not designated heritage, it runs the risk of being taken down, and that’s the risk we’re concerned about here.”
BARRY PADOLSKY, COMMITTEE MEMBER:
“We’re dealing a lot with heritage buildings that are on wheels these days.”
SUSAN KELLY, DAUGHTER OF PROPERTY OWNER DOROTHY JONES:
“Is heritage designation more important than the rights of a property owner?”
“The Flewellyn family has been honoured already by the naming of the former 9th line.”
COUNCILLOR SHAD QADRI:
“As long as the house is repurposed in a proper fashion, I think it is a good re-use for that property.”
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