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.
— Tobi Nussbaum (@tobi_nussbaum) December 8, 2015
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.