Julie Docker-Johnson is already the proud owner of a downtown Queen Street property that has Heritage designation under provincial legislation. So the recent decision by the St. Marys Town Council to designate the entire downtown core as a “Heritage Conservation District” (HCD) wasn’t a big change for her.
The single-structure Heritage designation and the HCD model fall under different sections within the same legislation, and the allowable restrictions and/or financial enticements allowed under each are similar.
However, after what happened to her recently when she decided to upgrade the roof on her Flower Shop and More building, Docker-Johnson wants downtown property owners to know how easy the application process is.
At a meeting of Town Council on Tuesday, July 23, Docker-Johnson — who had already received word of support under the town’s pre-existing Façade Improvement program — looked on as councillors approved her application for further support through the HCD.
A report from Town staff for the July 23 meeting acknowledged that the steel roofing material planned by Docker-Johnson would not return the building to its original state of construction. But, given that slate — which was the original roofing material — would be prohibitively expensive, the upgrade to steel was seen by town staff as acceptable, and eligible for Façade Improvement support.
The recommendation to Council was to also approve support under the HCD program. Cultural Services Manager Trisha McKibbin, who heads up the HCD program for the town, explained that this requirement for Council approval on each HCD application will be removed once the mandate of a yet-to-be-formed HCD advisory committee is approved. Once that happens, the Chief Building Official will be able to grant approvals, based on advisory committee recommendations.
Councillor Stephen McCotter expressed concern about the potential degree of authority to be handed to the Chief Building Official. Town staff responded that, under the proposal, a notice would be posted on the property and the public would have 30 days to appeal to Council.
The town is still looking for people to serve on the Heritage Conservation District Advisory Committee. Its primary duty is to recommend the approval or denial of HCD permits received by the town. The committee would meet once per month, if required — with an expected annual schedule of 8-10 meetings. If interested, contact Noah Atlin at 519-284-2340, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org by Aug. 7.