there’s no place like Graham Farm home

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A "Special Meeting" of Aurora's Heritage Advisory Committee was held this past Monday to consider a pending demolition request of the Graham Farm House, a listed Heritage Property located at 15634 Leslie Street.

The town has 60 days to respond to a demolition request, and given that this one was received by town staff back in March, I'm unsure why a special meeting was required.

Why wasn't this item included on the agenda of the scheduled meeting of H.A.C. the week previous?

Given the scheduling of H.A.C. meetings was an issue that I brought to the attention of the Chair, and then council ( http://christopherwatts.posterous.com/meetings-for-the-sake-of-meetings ) it is upsetting to see this scheduling irregularity, and with such short notice given.

Notice of the special meetings was posted to the town's website last Friday for a meeting this past Tuesday.

When questioned about the short notice staff in attendance stated that "proper notice" was given.
Proper according to the town's current practice perhaps, but adequate?

This committee is most likely not unique in its abysmal approach to citizen engagement.

Given the town's inept Communications department I would suggest that individual managers, and committee chairs need to step up their efforts to ensure that the residents are informed as to the town's business.

If twitter is too difficult to manage, how about notifying citizens through an opt-in e-mail notification?

Matters of logistics and communication aside, I was able to attend the meeting and will share my thoughts here.

A picture of the Graham Farm Home provided in the report is featured above.

The heritage house is currently rented.  It is not dilapidated or in disrepair.  

Unfortunately the house scored low points in an evaluation, and because of that score the developer sees no reason to preserve, hence the demolition order.

Every committee member with the exception of Jacquie Stewart formed the consensus that this home is indeed worthy of conservation and ended up drafting a motion to council to recommend staff work with the property developer to explore options for relocating the house if feasible.

Ms. Stewart's comments are cause for concern, I have transcribed them from the video I took of this meeting and included them here:

"I'd like to perserve this house, but I think some of our thinking is how wasteful it is to tear down a perfectly good house, attractive, apparently well maintained and so on, but I wonder if that's this commitee's role, to um, comment on that. Perhaps it's beyond our role if it's not about the architectural or historical importance of the house.  I can just see council members or whomever saying that's not your place."

Well, Ms. Stuart, it is indeed your place.  

The purpose of the HAC  committee is very clearly laid out in the committee's Terms of Reference found here:  http://www.town.aurora.on.ca/aurora/index.aspx?ArticleID=1141&lang=en-CA

Anyone claiming that efforts to preserve a heritage home for its cultural significance somehow goes beyond the committee's role, or is "not its place" is clearly misunderstood.

The following are duties and functions outlined in the T.O.R. that extend beyond "historical" and "architectural" concerns:
  • To encourage heritage preservation in Aurora by examining, researching and evaluating properties and areas that may deserve recognition and protection; 
  • To promote heritage conservation within the Town through newsletters, guides, exhibits and other educational material about notable buildings, streets, and districts in the Town in order to raise community awareness; 
  • To comment to Council and Staff on proposed development applications and demolition permits on properties within the heritage area, as identified within the Town of Aurora’s Official Plan

Given how long has Ms. Stewart been a part of this committee, how is it she doesn't understand its role?  Perhaps she is confusing the role of the H.A.C. with that of the Evaluation Group which she sits on.

Given the demolition of the George Browning house it seems like the reports from this Evaluation Group are not the final word on heritage properties anyway.  I would suggest that if they are going to be dismissed that the entire Evaluation system and working group needs to be re-evaluated.  Perhaps a demolition request is in order for it.

Regardless I am glad that the rest of the members present did not shy away from their responsibilities.  Citing the restoration efforts being made by Mattamy Homes with respect to the historic Enos Lundy home and using them to set a precedent in the surrounding area is a initiative that the H.A.C. should be commended for.

Aurora.

It is our place.

Until someone says otherwise.
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