Leading the way in municipal heritage planning

The Mason-Girardot House – a Victorian Italianate house built c. 1879 in the former town of Sandwich – is one of the properties participating in Windsor’s heritage property tax relief program

Buildings and architecture, Community, Tools for conservation

Published Date: May 10, 2007

Photo: The Mason-Girardot House – a Victorian Italianate house built c. 1879 in the former town of Sandwich – is one of the properties participating in Windsor’s heritage property tax relief program

What’s happening in your community?

With significant amendments to the Ontario Heritage Act in April 2005 and a strengthening of the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) in March 2005, the stage was set for a resurgence in heritage conservation in Ontario. Since the policy and regulatory framework has been enhanced, we have begun to see dramatic changes in the delivery of heritage services and programs at the municipal level. Some communities have shown a willingness to use tools that have existed for many years, some are making use of new features in the Act and others are implementing new programs.

Where these new initiatives have been successful, the common factors tend to include: political support for, and understanding of, heritage by the local municipal council; a well-trained and experienced municipal staff and municipal heritage committee; and an enthusiastic and sophisticated volunteer base with broad support in the community.

Each of the following success stories demonstrates how conservation tools are being used in municipalities across Ontario. This is just a sampling of many remarkable success stories:

  • The Town of Aurora is participating in Doors Open Ontario for the second year and has enacted a new heritage conservation district.
  • The City of Kingston has developed an adjacent properties policy around Section 2.6.3 of the PPS, and has updated approximately one-third of its designation bylaws to bring them up to the current provincial standard.
  • The City of Mississauga has implemented a cultural landscape inventory and a heritage property standards bylaw.
  • The Town of Oakville has formally adopted a municipal Register of approximately 125 non-designated heritage properties.
  • The City of Peterborough has adopted its municipal heritage Register, created a GIS-based inventory of heritage resources, prepared an Archaeology Master Plan and implemented a Heritage Tree Program.
  • The City of Toronto has reintroduced the Heritage Fund for designated heritage properties, and has 15 new heritage conservation districts under development.
  • The City of Windsor continues to operate a number of grant programs and has recently implemented a municipal heritage tax program in the historic community of Sandwich.

In general, municipal heritage tools can be broken into four broad categories:

  1. Research and policy – including heritage inventory and register development, local history research, themed heritage studies, archaeological master plans, heritage conservation districts surveys, heritage policies in the Official Plan.
  2. Protection – including Ontario Heritage Act designation, Heritage Property Standards Bylaw, interim control bylaws and conservation easements.
  3. Incentives – such as municipal grants, planning incentives and municipal tax incentives.
  4. Awareness and public education – such as local plaque and marker programs, walking tours, publications, conservation training, Doors Open Ontario, demonstrated good municipal stewardship of heritage properties and heritage awards programs. These heritage planning tools are essential in helping to create a local culture of conservation. Each one supports the other in furthering the goals of promoting, protecting and celebrating our rich cultural heritage.