Heritage appointment questioned
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Jan 30, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Heritage appointment questioned

Stratford Gazette

Jeff Heuchert editor@stratfordgazette.com

Proponents for the historical designation of the old GTR repair shops are asking city council to reconsider its list of appointments to the Heritage Stratford committee.

Lesley Walker-Fitzpatrick, who has served two terms on the advisory committee, says she is shocked and still reeling after learning she will not get a third two-year term – one that in all likelihood will include some sort of a resolution with the Cooper site building.

The longtime heritage advocate, in a letter to councillors Monday, called their decision a serious insult.

“I am a dedicated citizen volunteer and have given countless hours, effort and skill to the preservation and protection of Stratford’s deep and important heritage. Is this how city council treats dedicated volunteers who truly care about Stratford’s important heritage?” she wrote.

Walker-Fitzpatrick believes she was left off the committee because of her outspokenness towards preserving the former locomotive shops which dominate the city-owned property. Complicating the matter, of course, is the fact that the city is presently in talks with Riversedge Developments, which has submitted a proposal for the site – the details of which have not yet been made public – that includes a purchase offer.

Heritage Stratford members butted heads on more than one occasion over whether to recommend designating the old industrial building, despite a report they had compiled that came to the seemingly conclusive position that designation was the only appropriate course of action based on the criteria set out by the Ontario Heritage Act. A formal recommendation was passed by the committee in October but quickly stalled at the subcommittee level, where it was deferred until after a staff review of the report and its supporting research.

Walker-Fitzpatrick was the only existing Heritage Stratford member whose bid to get re-appointed failed. Her absence from the list sparked a flurry of emails Monday afternoon amongst heritage advocates, councillors, and city staff, and council Monday evening passed a motion to refer the matter back to the clerk’s office for clarification on some questions that were posed by the public in terms of the appointment process.

Committee appointments are conducted by councillors during in-camera sessions because they relate to identifiable individuals. That is normal procedure under the Ontario Municipal Act. Councillors review each candidate’s resume and attendance records for existing members seeking re-appointment before meeting, and voting is done privately with each councillor writing down the names of the candidates they would like to see fill the available positions.

Coun. Bonnie Henderson, speaking with the Gazette Tuesday, praised Walker-Fitzpatrck for her heritage work over the years. But she noted there were many candidates for Heritage Stratford, and with 11 people voting, there were no guarantees.

“Not everyone gets back on (the committee). It has nothing to do with what happened at committee level,” she added.

But Cynthia Venables, a former Heritage Stratford member who did not seek re-appointment, and who was a major proponent of heritage designation for the Cooper site as well, doesn’t believe Walker-Fitzpatrick has been treated fairly.

“A strong public response is needed from all who support the Heritage Stratford recommendation for designation of the GTR repair shops that Lesley Walker Fitzpatrick worked so hard on, against much opposition from within our committee and from some members of council and city staff,” she said in an email circulated to local media on Monday. “I am asking all those who support Lesley’s re-appointment  … to ask city council to reconsider their decision.”

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