The County’s heritage advisory arm presented its annual report to councillors this week detailing work done and ongoing to preserve and promote local history.
Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee (PEHAC) chair Peter Lockyer said the eight-member volunteer committee processed 28 heritage permits in 2017 — the vast majority of which were completed without issue.
“I think most people who went through the experience found it helpful, easy, and expeditious,” he said.
A total of 87 properties in the county have been designated as having heritage value. A further 200 properties are listed as having value, but haven’t officially been declared heritage structures under the Ontario Heritage Act.
He said when the current incarnation of PEHAC got started, the workload was overwhelming. That work was divided amongst four sub-committees: the designation and listings sub-committee, the best practices and policy sub-committee, the public education sub-committee, and the special projects sub-committee.
Lockyer said those committees have spent 2017 implementing their work plans.
In terms of designations and listings, he said two properties have been designated this year and a third designation is underway. The Loch-Sloy Business Park was listed as a heritage property this year and Lockyer said there is a planned 2018 pilot project to expand the heritage registry. He said the pilot includes canvassing select neighbourhoods with some template guidelines.
“The goal is to more fully document our heritage properties and do it more quickly,” he told councillors. “It takes a lot of time in the current way we are doing the designations to do the research and submit those designations for your consideration.”
The best practices and policy sub-committee, Lockyer said, might be the most important. He said that sub-committee is investigating innovative programming and guidelines that will be brought forward for policy development. He said the committee reviewed the policies of 36 Ontario communities.
“It’s our feeling that we need to explore this whole matter of incentives for people who have designated properties or properties within the Picton Heritage Conservation District,” he said. “Unless there’s tangible benefit to holding one of those properties, then it’s a bit of an uphill battle to have the properties listed or designated.”
He said PEHAC recommended council set up a heritage fund. The fund would disburse grants to owners of designated properties.The advisory committee believes the reserve could be funded as a line item in the municipal budget and/or through the sale of surplus municipal heritage properties.
“In January we’re going to be preparing the criteria for the grant applications for this fund,” Lockyer said.
PEHAC will also be looking into other heritage policy initiatives that are underway in other jurisdictions, he said.
“Things like tax breaks and reduced fees for heritage property owners and also looking into ways how we can encourage the insurance industry to insure designated properties,” he said. “It’s currently a bit of a liability if you do designate and then go look for insurance, your insurance bill can go up.”
The public education sub-committee conducted a number of community presentations in 2017. The group also partnered with the Prince Edward Historical Society to revive the Prince Edward County Heritage Awards. Lockyer said PEHAC is planning events for Heritage Week which will take place Feb. 17–25 2018.
“We’ve never really celebrated that here, so we’re going to try that in association with the Historical Society, the Regent Theatre, the museums, the library and archives, the Friends of Sandbanks and some other private businesses,” he said.
He said the week would include period-themed dinners, workshops, and lectures.
“We hope it’s one of the first steps in having this as an annual event,” he said
The special projects sub-committee, Lockyer said, acts as PEHAC’s “rapid response team” and has worked on projects with a quick turnaround including a heritage report on CML Snider School. He said the committee does a number of heritage assessments and recently undertook a photo documentation project of the Wellington Hotel in advance of renovations.
Lockyer said PEHAC strongly believes heritage preservation requires three elements: leadership, investment, and vision. He said the committee tries to take on a leadership role, promote awareness, create partnerships, and develop policies that have proven effective in other communities.
In closing, he said PEHAC wants to encourage consultation when it comes to municipal decision-making.
“You can have leadership, you can have investment, but you may not have vision,” he said. “I would say a practical example of that is Benson Park and its renewal project.”
He said PEHAC understands council and municipal staff may have to anticipate projects years in advance, but said in the future more consideration should be given to heritage from the very beginning. While he said the Benson Park project centred around the tennis court, he argued it might have started with Benson Hall. Lockyer suggested the park could have been left as green space while the tennis court might have been more appropriately located at the Picton Fairgrounds.
“It’s one of those projects from the past, it’s going to go forward as it is now, but our wish would be that this is the end of the old projects and starting Jan. 2 that we have the various departments consult more and not have heritage as an afterthought,” he said.
Lockyer said it would be he and PEHAC vice chair Ted Longly’s last presentation to council as chair and vice chair as the advisory committee’s terms of reference mandate the positions can only be held for a term of two years.