Bradley-Craig barn, September 2015. Photo by Barry Gray.

NUSSBAUM: Hazeldean road development ‘rather disappointing’

Here’s a transcript of two statements made by city councillors at last week’s Built Heritage Sub-Committee during a debate about the future of the Bradley-Craig farmstead.  The first is from Tobi Nussbaum, the committee’s chair, and the second is from Stittsville councillor Shad Qadri.  The committee ended up voting to deny an application to demolish the barn and move it to Munster, although that decision could be overturned when Planning Committee reviews the file on January 26. Photo above by Barry Gray.

COUNCILLOR TOBI NUSSBAUM

By way of background, when heard this report was coming to this committee, I spent a fair amount of time thinking about it, because we haven’t had a lot of rural applications.  My first instinct was: “this is a very different situation” because I think we have a fairly good idea now of what adaptive re-use means in an urban context. Most of our applications have to do with an urban context, so contemplating something rural was relatively new to me as chair.

So what did I do? I went out to Stittsville to take a look. And my first observation as I was coming from the east on Hazeldean Road was that it wasn’t difficult to find the barn. It is quite the landmark on the scenery. You saw the slides – a large, imposing red building. So that was my first impression.

And then we got closer to the actual structure and we looked around.  I think the context here is incredibly important. Here I realized that this really is an issue that’s not really about heritage, it’s about a lot more. It’s about settlement, it’s about our expanding urban boundary.

What I’m showing up there is a slide from GeoOttawa (a satellite map of the area). One of the things that surprised me, and in fact I actually found it rather disappointing, was that within the last five years we here in the City, I would accuse of being guilty, of having really allowed development to take place that I would argue is not consistent with the Official Plan and the general use designation in our Official Plan of building complete and sustainable communities.

There are 11 hectares of parking in the area across the street. The distance from Hazeldean Road to some of those retail spots is anywhere from 120 to 200 metres. I don’t know if we’re serving the people of Stittsville well by expecting them from Hazeldean Road to walk 200 metres to a storefront.

Those small buildings you see on Hazeldean Road, have no active street front, there are no entrances to those buildings on Hazeldean, there are blank walls, there are postered-over windows.

I certainly think that – and I include myself in this category – I think we are guilty already when we start looking at this at having not necessarily walked the walk of what we say in the Official Plan about the importance of those types of sustainable and complete communities.

What this also says to me is it says something about land values.  If landowners don’t mind there being asphalt parking for 11 hectares over that parcel, and it says to me something about what the value of land is at that site presently.

Which brings me to the 1.7 hectares of the site that we’re dealing with here before the committee…  I was extremely encouraged to hear from the applicant that there had been some consideration of how to incorporate the barn into a mixed-use area. In fact, the drawings we saw I would argue were a significant improvement into trying to have an active street front…

What was disappointing from the applicant is there hadn’t seemed to be a concerted effort to try and think about how the barn could be adaptively re-used. And I think again, speaking for myself, it’s certainly true that an active re-use involves some serious sacrifices.  I think in that situation one could not expect the same interior viewpoints as someone who’s on the inside of that structure. I think it would probably involve changing the context of that site.

But again, my sense, in having heard a dozen residents, the preoccupation really is about keeping this in situ and recognizing the importance of the structure as a landmark.  

To that effect I think about generations after us. As the city grows, there’s going to be less and less symbols and reminders of our agricultural history. And while it’s true that we need to make sure that we don’t expect owners to keep their heritage in some kind of museum or artificial space, I do think it’s fair to ask landowners of designated buildings to think hard and creatively. To raise the bar on how we’re going to manage a very important priority for us in recognizing the extremely important rural history of this area.

In summary, although I accept that keeping this barn in place as part of the mixed-use development will involve sacrifice and some compromise to the heritage value, I personally see it as an improved situation over moving the barn 20km away and removing it from the cultural history that the staff report thinks about.

For that reason I will be supporting the staff recommendation.

***

COUNCILLOR SHAD QADRI

As the councilor for Stittsville in the former Goulbourn Township, I would like to see the Craig-Bradley barn stay in the current location. But as the old saying goes, “If wishes were horses, beggars would cry”.  The barn is falling apart. If you look at the condition today of that barn from the exterior to what it was even five years ago, you can see the actual deterioration.

While staff will tell us that our city bylaws can force the owner to keep the structure standing and certain features sustained, the owner who already agrees to invest in the heritage home on the property to sustain and re-purpose it will do the minimum, and the community will have no access to the structure.  Measure this against dismantling the barn and re-purposing for long term use, enjoyment and education.  

I have listened to the community and heard many ideas for the barn, including turning the barn into a restaurant.  What I haven’t heard is who’s going to pay to refit the barn for this purpose, in what is to become a commercial centre.

Moving the barn to Saunders Farm means that the public will have access, it will mean that both the Goulbourn Horticultural Society and the Goulbourn Museum will have the opportunity to re-create the barn in its time.  I believe that re-locating the barn to Saunders Farm will provide the best opportunity to preserve this building today, and celebrate its history.

Saunders Farm is a very successful Goulbourn business, and is a destination location.  Imagine the celebration of seasons and the school groups and the families celebrating things like strawberry socials, pumpkin pies, and fiddling, apple bobbing, and church picnics. Some of the special events that could be held in this barn at its new possible location.

Celebrating the history of Goulbourn Township and offering us the chance to maintain this barn and even better enjoy it.  At this point I would like to thank the Saunders family especially for raising their hand and willing to protect one of the key features of Goulbourn Township in terms of historical aspects. And I want to thank the community who have engaged with their participating and personal attendance today, and to Ms. Collins and the rest of City staff for their good work on this file.


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17 thoughts on “NUSSBAUM: Hazeldean road development ‘rather disappointing’”

  1. So we have what appear to be the personal opinions of a couple of politicians. We have the opinion of the Heritage Committee.

    What do the people want? The area residents. If only we had a way to count what the people want. Nobody I know wants to see this barn torn down and have more of the same.

    We all know the real story is that this barn is tying up valuable housing space – i.e. profits. Does it always have to be about money? How about what’s good?

  2. Good question Andre.
    If social media and online news comments are any indication, by and large the majority of commenters support keeping the barn where it is.
    And, while not exactly the most credible/reliable of sources, the Ottawa Sun ran a poll last week where about 60% of respondents supported keeping the barn in Stittsville.

  3. I vote for keeping the barn where it is. This is a wonderful heritage landmark. I see this barn every time I drive from Kanata to Stittsville and feel it would be an awful shame to have it torn down. Ellen Faulkner

  4. I have a feeling the fix is in for Coun. Qadri and Richcraft to have their way on dismantling this beautiful heritage barn – prediction: the usually gutlessly pro developer planning committee and/or full city council will overturn the staff recommendation and clear the way for more Richcraft $$$$

  5. Barn should stay where it is. Moving it to Munster to act as a museum for city kids would completely erase the heritage value — it would be “just another” beautiful barn out in the country. The historical significance is THIS barn at THIS location to preserve the connection to the area’s rural history and the farming community who lived here. Plus it will send a message that this stretch of Hazeldean Rd should not just turn into another Merivale Rd disaster that we will be trying to unwind decades from now.

    I agree with other commenters, based on what I heard during this committee meeting, I think the developer has a tenant lined-up and they want to do a quick, template retail strip. They’ll add a pitched roof to the Dollar Store (or something equally meaningless) as a nod to the previous rural history.

    If local Councillors don’t fight for better development and community friendly design in their wards, what will they fight for? I don’t get it — seems like a political no-brainer.

  6. I don’t understand any of this or why there’s even any debate.

    It seems like there are two opposing groups:
    1) Richcraft and Qadri
    2) Everyone else

    What’s going on here Mr Qadri? I can understand Richcraft’s motivation, but what’s yours?

  7. Thanks to Tobi Nussbaum for speaking up about the commercial development on Hazeldean. Although I understand that most people will drive to these stores, it’s almost like they tried to make the development unfriendly to transit. Not only are there no street faced doors on business (as Tobi identifies), but there’s also no direct walkway from the main sidewalk to the doors opening into the parking lot. Crappy development like this will keep OC ridership low and expensive to operate – not a win for the taxpayer much less the environment!

  8. I agree the house and barn should remain standing where they are. The barn could be used for any number of purposes inside, including recreation, restaurant, shopping galeria etc.

    As I understand it, the barn had heritage designation when it was sold. There should be a strict bylaw that ALL heritage buildings MUST be properly maintained so they do not fall apart. The City is serving us badly in this regard, and not just in Stittsville.

    And I also agree with Councillor Nussbaum that the City is treating Stittsville very badly in allowing so much development, especially in taking over valuable farmlands and wetlands. We know better now, and it’s shameful that the City has so little consideration for the outlying “former” townships that are now included in Greater Ottawa.

    1. Thanks for your comments Keldine.
      There is a bylaw that requires buildings be properly maintained — in fact is was strengthened in 2013 with a goal to prevent ‘demolition by neglect’. There have clearly been some challenges in the enforcement and application of the law!

    2. The issue with farm lands is the city can’t block sales farmers have a right to see there land to who ever they want and if they city starts trying to block them it would not be a good thing as the city then could be forced to buy that land as for the wetlands thats a whole different issue.

  9. Why are there only one point of view presented here. I believe the media is to present all sides of a story. I don’t believe that these were to only comments sent in.
    I much rather seem the barn moved to Saunders Farm. It would see a lot more use than sitting where it is. I think over time in that current place it is only going to further deteriorate. Government and Committees have a dismal record of timely decision making. Then no one is better served

    1. Hi Bud. We are publishing all comments that come in on this issue – the vast majority of people who’ve commented do not support moving the barn. You’ll also note that we included Councillor Qadri’s statement to the committee. He is in support of moving the barn to Munster.

  10. When a building is designated heritage before a sale it should remain so. This was accepted by the developer, maybe with a unwise promise that it would be waived? If the developer fails to maintain the building, the city should provide a timeframe before it would step in with inspectors and trades to perform the bare minimum maintenance and invoice the owner.
    This is done elsewhere.
    I had some sympathy for the owner until I realized the property was sold with the designation already in place.
    It appears as if the buyer misrepresented their intention, in order to gain the property.
    Adhering to intention is pretty important when the subject is designated and protected.. as long as we are all being ethical.

    1. Thanks for your comments CB.
      A slight clarification – when the property was sold it didn’t have full heritage designation, but it was listed on a heritage reference list. So any potential buyer would have been well aware of the potential for heritage designation.

      In any case, the developer has had at least five years since it was designated to identify a potential use. See Nussbaum’s comments: “What was disappointing from the applicant is there hadn’t seemed to be a concerted effort to try and think about how the barn could be adaptively re-used.”

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