make way for the future

Tales

My most recent post regarding the demolition of the George Browning house :  http://christopherwatts.posterous.com/money-pit-or-money-pile    was not one of “lamenting” as Clr. Buck either mistook or conveniently reduced it to in a recent post on her blog here:  http://evelynmbuck.blogspot.ca/2012/04/hopes-and-dreams.html

My post illustrated how the George Browning House serves as a prime example of at least 3 clear violations of the town’s responsibilities to heritage preservation as I presented to council and posted breifly about it in this post here:

As I presented in Open Forum and not through a delegation it did not provide the ability to include visual aids, I will incorporate them here in the body of what I presented:

“I’m also appearing before you tonight with regards to the agenda item : HAC12-01 from last week’s G.C. meeting : Heritage Advisory Committee Report of December 16, 2011.
Having attended the HAC meeting of December 16th it is more than a little diconcerting to read in this week’s Auroran the chair of the HAC quoted as saying:
“We wish we could keep that building (but) I don’t think we have the “authority” in our municipality to do “anything” about the buildings that are losing their glory and upkeep.”
 

I would suggest that this is the exact purpose of the H.A.C, and there are several resources that provide “authority” to the comitte and the municipality to carry this out. 


I present to you 3 of these as outlined in a presentation recieved by council back in 2006 by Aurora’s then Community Planner Michael Seaman titled “Best Practices for heritage conservation in suburban municipalities” : http://www.heritagecanada.org/conf/2007/pdf/Michael_Seaman.pdf 


The first of which is of course the Ontario Heritage Act which includes Provincial Policy Statement 2.6.1. :  http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page1485.aspx#2.6

Apparently, the Town’s Community planner noted that this is “not” optional
 

Michael_Seaman 17.pdf
Download this file

Second is the “Aurora Heritage Building Evaluation System” based on the internationally recognized Parks Canada system adopted in 2005.


The Browning house scored a 91.2 out of 100 in this evaluation, which was conducted as recently as Sept 2009.  Potentialy the highest ever awarded by the group placing it into group 1, which states:


“every attempt must be made to preserve the building.”

How does a motion to demolish the house reflect this? 


The report further states: 


The George Browning house is a significant contributor to the character of Yong street
The existing house is to be retained and restored as a prominent heritage feature on Yonge Street. 


Which is of course why it was designated in 2009. 


Yet here we are the first month into 2012 and you now recieve a recomendation to demolish a building designated just over 2 years ago.
 

You should be asking yourself why an Aurora landmark should be demolished “simply” because it can’t be a Montissori school.

The town doesn’t require additional tools or authority, it simply needs to implement what it already has.

Michael_Seaman 26.pdf
Download this file

Failure to do so questions the integrity of the designation process and that of the HAC as a whole. 


The Browning house doesn’t need to become a failure for this council to learn fromand that is why I urge council to pull this item this evening and defer it back to the HAC so that proper assurances can be made that this decision is consistent with the Ontario Heritage Act.

That didn’t happen.

The fact that Clr. Buck didn’t particularly like the asthetics of the property does not justify the decision council made to demolish. The Heritage Advisory Committee and it’s Evaluation working group no not measure heritage buildings solely on their appearance.  There is a much wider set of criteria which leads to the ratings that buildings are assigned.

What was made clear by the council decision that erased one of Aurora’s landmarks is that the rating system can be completely ignored in council’s assessment of a heritage site.  Other limited vision usage issues took precedent over the town’s clear obligations to heritage preservation, and that shows lack of consistency and stewardship our town’s heritage.

It also circumvents, to easily, all of the provisions and best practices adopted to prevent something like this from happening.

When/if the regrading of that lot is done I now have serious questions as to what impact it will have on neighbouring properties.  I am particularly concerned with decorated WWII hero Lloyd Chaburn’s house.  I commented on that in a previous post here:  http://christopherwatts.posterous.com/100-watts-up-in-the-air

With the George Browning house leveled one can now see the majestic home with its unique architectural features.  It’s a shame one had to fall to really get a look at the other.

What would be inexcusable now that it is more visible is the belief that it should share the same fate as the George Browning house simply because of its elevation, or if someone on council doesn’t like the way it looks.

The anual Ontario Heritage Conference is approaching.  This year it is held in Kingston from May 31st to june 3rd and its focus is on best practices.  Details can be found on their website here:  http://heritage2012.com/

Speaking at the 2008 conference on the subject of “The Role of Historic Preservation in Sustainable Development” was Donovan Rypkema who holds a Masters of Science degree in Historic Preservation.

I share Rypkema belief that historic preservation and sustainable development are not mutually exclusive.

Key elements of the speach he gave at the 2008 conference can be found in one he gave in San Jose:  http://www.preservation.org/rypkema.htm

A short synopsis of that presentation are the following 5 kep points:

  1. Sustainable development is crucial for economic competitiveness.
  2. Sustainable development has more elements than just environmental responsibility.
  3. “Green buildings” and sustainable development are not synonyms.
  4. Historic preservation is, in and of itself, sustainable development.
  5. Development without a historic preservation component is not sustainable.

“What is the whole purpose of the concept of sustainable development? It is to keep that which is important, which is valuable, which is significant. The very definition of sustainable development is the “…ability to meet our own needs without prejudicing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” We need to use our cities, our cultural resources, and our memories in such a way that they are available for future generations to use as well. Historic preservation makes cities viable, makes cities livable, makes cities equitable. 


Sustainability means stewardship. There can be no sustainable development without a central role for historic preservation.”

A short 2 minute interview with Rypkema speaking about sustainability and preservation can be viewed here:

Rypkema is provocative, but more imprortantly he has identified major flaws in the mindest that favours demolition of heritage sites, which in my mind is much more destructive to a town’s historic and cultural fabric.

The currently proposed development for the site where the George Browning once sat is a complete 180 degree turn from the initial one.  Instead of stewards of heritage that incorporated the building into their vision they chose to become “Crazy Harry” of Muppets fame.

Interesting that the plot of the latest incarnation of The Muppets, a 2011 academy award winning film ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Muppets_(film) ) revolved around heritage preservation:

The creator of the Muppets, the late Jim Henson described his purpose was “to leave the world a bit better than when I got here.” 

The Muppets are proof that he did just that.

With respect to the loss of the George Browning house what’s Aurora’s excuse for robbing our future generations a fantastic heritage building and leaving a monster Montissori school in its place?
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