Dear Mayor McIver and members of Council,
Re: Municipal Heritage Committee
On behalf of the Executive Committee of the St. Edmunds Property Owners Inc. (SEPO) I would like to express our deep concern that at a meeting of Council, on October 24, 2011, a motion, tabled by the Deputy Mayor to establish a Municipal Heritage Committee for the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula (MNBP), was defeated by a vote of four to one.
The motion noted that section 2.6.1 of the Provincial Policy Statement 2005 requires that significant built heritage resourcesand significant cultural heritage landscapesshall beconserved and that, where there is a significant cultural resource, consideration must be given to this resource at every step in the planning and decision-making process.
It was also noted in the motion that the identification of buildings and landscapes, which were significant to the community, should be achieved by a consensus among community members with an interest in the preservation, use and development of cultural heritage. Further, the Ontario Heritage Act s. 28 provides a mechanism for finding this consensus among community members by enabling the municipality to establish a Municipal Heritage Committee (MHC) to advise Council.
A member of the Executive Committee was present at the Council meeting. The Committee subsequently reviewed the Ontario Heritage Act with particular interest in the sections referenced in the motion.
It is the view of SEPO that there are buildings and landscapes that have cultural significance to the community and which need to be identified in order that the municipality can be in compliance with the Provincial Policy Statement.
For example, letters have been sent to Council from community members identifying the Tobermory library building and the Tobermory museum and adjacent log cabin as being culturally significant properties. At least one of these letters requested that a MHC be established to begin the process of protecting these buildings, and to identify other significant cultural and heritage buildings and landscapes in the municipality.
The grounds for defeating the Deputy Mayor’s motion were that an MHC would interfere with private property rights, that there is already adequate protection for the cultural landscape through the Niagara Escarpment Commission and other agencies, and that we do not need any more regulations. It was further stated that cultural and heritage resources can be adequately protected by Council itself. It was also pointed out that when Council is in open session we are, in fact, achieving consensus.
It appears that the Council of the MNBP do not understand the intent of s. 2.6.1 of the Provincial Policy Statement nor the role of an MHC, which is merely advisory and, therefore, does not threaten private property rights nor increase the number of regulations governing the municipality. Accordingly, the residents of the municipality are being denied their right to take appropriate steps to protect those buildings and landscapes which have cultural and heritage value to them.
The remarks of the Council of the MNBP during the discussion of the motion respecting their reluctance to introduce more regulations and their concern for private property rights suggest an unwillingness to implement Ontario Government policies which are designed to protect the public interest.
Further, we believe that the Council is wrong in asserting that its public meetings are sufficient to determine the consensus of the interested members of the community as to which buildings and landscapes are significant. Council always meets in the municipal building on Lindsay Road 5. This building is located in the heart of a rural landscape. It is at least a 25 minute drive from Tobermory , and the Pike Bay area, where more than 20% and 40% respectively of the population resides. Thus, Council meetings at most times are sparsely attended by members of the public, and rarely for the whole meeting. The minutes of the meetings, while published in the local paper, are stripped bare of all but procedural content. As a result, consensus is nothing more than what three of five members of Council chose to think it is.
The Executive of SEPO, therefore, respectfully requests that the Mayor and Council re-visit their decision and take steps to establish a Municipal Heritage Committee for the Municipality.
Udo Nixdorf, President,
St. Edmunds Property Owners Inc.