100 Watts : Respecting Boundaries

The Ontario Heritage Act plays an important role in enabling a municipality to designate the whole or any part of an area as a Heritage Conservation District. This allows City Council to protect and enhance the special character of groups of properties in an area. The character is established by the overall heritage quality of buildings, streets and open spaces as seen together.

The ball is rolling towards establishing the paramaters to form a second Heritage Conservation District in Aurora and this was the subject of my column in this week’s Auroran which you can read here:

Download this file

The item was brought before the Heritage Advisory Comittee both in November and then again through a delegation by Susan Morton-Leonard a member of HEAT in December.  The accompanying documentation provided in part by Marco Ramunno, Director of Planning and Developmental Services can be found here:

I have drawn attention to several inconsistencies between the boundaries of the existing NE distric and the proposed SE district which come down to boundaries.

To get an appreciation of the NE district and download any number of documents pertaining to it you can visit the town’s website here:  http://www.aurora.ca/aurora/index.aspx?CategoryID=76&lang=en-CA

This image shows the boundary as agreed upon for the NE:

Notice how the boundary crosses Yonge Street to the west, but comes shy of businesses on Wellington failing to include them.

When we look at the proposed boundary for the SE district it crosses Wellington to the North yet comes shy of the businesses on the East side of Yonge St:


I raise great issue with the very nomeclature of these districts as they claim North and South to be divided by Wellington Street, East and West are divided by Yonge Street yet both districts do not adhere to this division at all.


At the November meeting there were remarks made in regards to aprehnsion to include Yonge Street busineeses because there would be lack of buy-in.

The senitment from certain members and staff was not to include these properties and bow to any percieved resistance.

Excuse me, but isn’t that the exact opposite role the HAC is supposed to serve?

Let’s check shall we.

The Government of Ontario has prepared a comprehsive toolkit for municipalities interested in forming Heritage Districts, you can find that here:

There doesn’t seem to be anything included in this document about shying away from commercial properties when setting boundaries for a district, in fact it states:

Apart from a small number of districts where the main use is institutional, the majority of Ontario’s designated HCDs comprise residential or commercial “main streets” districts.

It continues on pg 16:

The key ingredients for a successful HCD are a sound examination of the rationale for district designation, especially for thedelineation of district boundaries;

I guess that was overlooked when at both meetings of the HAC when this item was brought forward along with questions as to boundaries both the Heritage Planning Manager and Director of Planning eschewed the boundary as being firm, that it would get worked out later on during the public process.

Kind of flies in the face of the process outlined by the tooklin, on pg 24 we read :

Boundary delineation is critical task during the study and implementation phases of the district designation process. Some study areas have an obvious character and a clear set of boundaries. Others are more difficult to define. They may include both cultural and natural features. They may cross political boundaries. They may have evolved over time.
The initial research phase can be used to decide the possible boundaries of a district. The final definition of boundaries should come from the findings of the research and the community consultation process.

Considering it’s a critical task it’s interesting to read how the minimum requirements for public consultation are a single meeting.

It is my hope that will not be the case here, but regardless of public input wouldn’t you at least want to draft a somewhat intelligent boundary for your district compete with rationalle that doesn’t conflict itself.

The toolkit states clearly :

Though a district’s legal and financial implementation depends on the two-dimensional lines, its ultimate effect will be judged by how well it protects and conserves the real, visible, three-dimensional character of the district embraced by those lines.

How exactly can it be claimed that the SE district will protect and coserve the “character” of a district that effectively stops just short of Aurora’s Historic Downtown core.

It is insulting to read in report HAC11-023 under the section of the  existing Official Plan – Part Three – Planning Components  3.8 Heritage under the heading POLICIES 

c. The Historic Core Community Commercial Centre and the adjacent neighbourhoods formed the town of Aurora of the 19th Century.  The Old Post Office, Trinity Anglican and Canada Methodist Churches, the Hillary House, Fleury Implements factory and the Railway Station are just a few of the buildings which bear testimony to this era.  This area shall be considered for designation as a Heritage Conservation District, based on an appropriate plan. 

Is the SE plan appropriate when it comes to the The Historic Core Community Commercial Centre as outlined in the offical plan?

Absolutely not.

The boundary currently includes 22 designated properties and 227 listed.  6 of those designated and 31 of those listed are North of Wellington.  They are not South East.

If instead the boundary ran all the way to Yonge Street it would include an additional 2 designated and 7 listed properties, protecting the eastern side of Aurora’s Historic Downtown.

Perhaps we need to pay more attention to our neighbours to the North in Newmarket.

Their Heritage Conservation District Proposal for Lower Main Street can be viewed on their website here: http://www.newmarket.ca/en/townhall/HDC.asp and here:

They seem to have been more than capable of creating a renaissance with that section of their historic mainstreet as outlined here: http://www.newmarket.ca/en/lifestyle/rearfacade.asp

Newmarket’s Historic downtown core is a joy to walk, shop and enjoy.  
It has been preserved in an inclusive manner, incorporated into a heritage district and marketed as a draw for visitors: http://www.newmarket.ca/en/discoverdowntown.asp

With $60,000 allocated for proceeding with this study the lines and rationale presently given for Aurora’s SE district look like they were made by a toddler.

Not too unlike those made when drafting the “Promenade” study.



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