By Chet Greason
West Perth Council has decided not to assign a 149-year old home in Motherwell a heritage designation.
A group of concerned residents made a presentation at the Council’s meeting on Sept. 10, urging them to declare the property of heritage value and stave off the demolition of the building by the property landlord, the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA). UTRCA currently oversees six homes around the village of Motherwell that sit on land that was purchased decades ago, intended to be used in the Glengowan Dam project. Although the dam has never been built, UTRCA continues to rent out the properties.
Council, following presentations by both concerned resident Nancy Allen and UTRCA Secretary-Treasurer and General Manager Ian Wilcox, decided to take the matter under consideration pending a proposed revisitation by UTRCA regarding the future role in the properties, with a result to be announced in late September.
However, in speaking with Wilcox this week, the Journal Argus learned that any result from this revisitation will be a long time coming. Wilcox revealed that, at the UTRCA’s September meeting, a proposal was made to revisit the issue in January after some preliminary inquiries are made. In January, the decision will be made whether to continue to maintain and rent out the properties, or to initiate a year-long study aimed at deciding whether or not the dam will ever be constructed, and what to do with the properties should the dam be no longer warranted. In short, in 15 months time, the UTRCA may decide whether or not they’ll actually build the Glengowan Dam...or, they may not.
Meanwhile, plans to demolish the historic house remain as is. “At this point, that’s our plan,” said Wilcox. “The tenant is expected to leave the building later this month, then the house will be demolished before the bad weather sets in.”
West Perth Councillor Annamarie Murray not only represents Fullarton Ward on Council, the ward in which Motherwell is located, but is also Council’s representative on West Perth’s Heritage Committee. “We had a number of discussions over the last couple months about the house. We went and saw the property, and the Committee felt it merited designation,” she said. However, despite the Heritage Committee’s recommendation, Council decided not to assign the home a heritage designation.
“Council felt, as it wasn’t the owner requesting the designation, that there was no power to ensure things improved or were kept up,” Murray explained. “Council has always dealt with owners. In this case, we did not have that support.”
This lack of support was further demonstrated at the Council meeting in September, when Wilcox said thatt UTRCA did not have the resources to maintain the property should it be historically designated and, if designation were to go through, the house would be boarded up and left vacant.
Tenant John Holland has lived there for the past 15 years, but he says there’s not much more that can be done at this point. “It’s all over now. Hasta la vista,” he says.
Neighbour Nancy Allen, who made the presentation to West Perth Council asking for the heritage designation, admits defeat. “We lost the battle...I think it’s a shame. I don’t think the house can be saved now.”
Allen says they never had much hope to win the case, but made the effort on behalf of Holland who, she says, is a well-liked individual in Motherwell.
While she accepts the house will likely not see another spring, she remains extremely wary of the demolition itself. “Now they have to remove the asbestos siding. They think it’ll only cost $14,000 to tear it down properly? No way.” $14,000 was the cost of demolition put forth by Wilcox at the Council meeting.
Allen says she intends to contact the Ministry of the Environment to ensure the asbestos is disposed of properly.