October 27, 2023
Attn: MPP Andrew Dowie, MPP Anthony Leardi, MPP Lisa Gretzky (via email)
RE: ACO Windsor/Essex Branch strongly opposes the impact that Bill 23 will have on the heritage landscape of Essex County.
Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 deems that any property that has been listed on a Municipal Register for 2 years without being designated will be removed on January 1, 2025. Once removed, they will be ineligible to return to the Register for 5 years however must be on the Register to be designated. Most municipalities in Ontario designate at the rate of 1-2 properties per year. The low rate of designation can be attributed to a lack of staffing in these smaller municipalities, but also due to a lack of urgency prior to Bill 23 passing late last year. In most instances, municipalities would add properties to the Register because listing would give 60 Days notice to Council if a property was under threat of demolition so that Council could make the decision to initiate designation or not when crunch time came.
With the sudden passing of Bill 23, it has become more urgent than ever before for properties that had been listed on the Municipal Registers in Windsor and Essex County to be designated in order to protect them from future neglect or demolition. Some of the significant properties under threat include:
- Windsor Arena – 334 Wyandotte Street East, Windsor (1925)
- The Bank Theatre – 10 Erie Street South, Leamington (1922)
- Bondy House Bed and Breakfast – 199 Dalhousie Street, Amherstburg (1920)
- Sarah Elliott House – 849 Front Road, Amherstburg (1835)
- Christ Church – 190 Bagot Street, Colchester (1876)
- Clements Church – 9567 Walker Road, Essex (1879)
These properties mentioned above are just a very small cross section of the properties that will come under threat. The City of Windsor alone has 884 properties of historical importance that could fall to the wrecking ball without proper notice to the public. Municipalities are scrambling to gain what ground they can in designation, for example Windsor and Amherstburg are looking to identify areas as heritage conservation districts, which they anticipate will protect the largest number of properties in the quickest way. Designation takes both time and staff to do the research and many municipalities simply do not have the proper resources to assess the structures that should be designated and protect them. Minimally, giving municipalities more time to work toward designation goals would make all the difference and not threaten housing benchmarks.
Achieving Bill 23’s goal does not need to be at the expense of conserving heritage. The province can meet their housing goals by adapting heritage instead of threatening it. Although there are plenty of examples worldwide of this type of adaptive reuse, located in Windsor is St. Genevieve School, designed in 1929 by Pennington & Boyde, that was converted in 2000 to 15-unit loft condominiums. Heritage structures help bring a sense of identity to a community, and in some cases, the province and county. They should not be seen as an obstacle, but rather, an opportunity for creative housing.
Please join us in calling to the province and our leaders to stop the threat to heritage.
Windsor/Essex Branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario
CC: Premier Doug Ford; Paul Calanda, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing; PC Party of Ontario; Essex County Town/City Councils, Heritage Planners, and Heritage Committees
Featured image is St. Clement’s Church in McGregor. Click here to see the original source.