Toronto heritage property backlog

Report emphasizes lack of resources, staff
Kris Scheuer
(Updated Feb. 11 for Town Crier.)

Geoff Kettel, left, Paul Litt, Karen Carter and David Crombie helped to release a report on proposed changes to how the city handles the designation of heritage properties. Photo by Kris Scheuer/Town Crier.

Hoping to have your childhood home declared a heritage site?
Well you may have to wait awhile.
“There is a backlog of 100 properties that’s been submitted to the city for consideration, but haven’t been processed, haven’t gone to the (Toronto) Heritage Board or city council,” Geoff Kettel, chair of the North York Preservation Panel told the crowd regarding the findings of a report on the state of heritage in the city.
“The 100 is just the tip of the iceberg,” he added. “They represent ones with a development where the community is concerned about a possible demolition. That backlog will take time to move (through).”
In an email to the Town Crier, Kettel wrote that the city’s preservation services staff are able to process only about 40 potential heritage properties a year.
“I would also add that the demand to add new properties to the backlog is lower than it should be because we know that there is no appetite in heritage preservation services to add new properties to the list,” his email stated.
The 12 page report was a joint effort by Heritage Toronto and the Toronto Historical Society and was based on several consultations with community and heritage groups.

A key point raised at the press conference is how important it is for the community to become involved in the process of protecting heritage assets in their neighbourhoods.
Kettel mentioned a lengthy process Leasiders went through to get the Talbot apartments designated and saved because the landowner went through a multi-year process to try and tear down the 1930s buildings and redevelop the site. The buildings were not listed as heritage at first but through joint efforts by the community and city staff and many legal fights they are now protected.
Another current fight is to protect the Maclean House near Casa Loma. In 2009, the community approached the city to look at designating this century-old property and in the meantime the owner took the legal liberty of removing aspects of the home that could be deemed heritage worthy.
A 60 day stop-work order was put in place. The home is now a designated heritage property and the owner is currently seeking permission to demolish it and build a townhouse and apartment complex.
It is these kind of 11th-hour scenarios that those gathered today want to avoid by having the city be more proactive.
Eight issues and concerns are outlined in the report including an opportunity to strengthen heritage policies when a review of the city’s official plan takes place this year. Another issue was the need for a Toronto museum dedicated to the city’s history.
The report has six recommendations including more funding for the city’s heritage department staff to do its work and looking at how other cities such as Montreal, Ottawa and Winnipeg put a strong emphasis on heritage.

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