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Wellesley eyes heritage designation for Hawkesville

Wellesley Township has taken another step on the road to designating Hawkesville as a heritage conservation district, with council passing a motion Tuesday night to hold a public meeting with residents of the village.

Designating an area as a heritage conservation district allows the local municipal council to manage and guide changes in the district to conserve, protect and enhance the area’s special character. After approval of a local designation bylaw, alterations, additions and demolitions to properties within the district require a permit from the municipality. Approval or denial of a permit is determined in accordance with approved guidelines and the district plan.

There are more than 90 such districts in Ontario, including a handful in Waterloo Region: downtown Galt in Cambridge, Victoria Park and Upper Doon Village in Kitchener and New Hamburg’s core, among others.
The designation process started last fall with a study of heritage buildings in Wellesley Township and survey of residents conducted by students at the University of Waterloo. The students spent 16 weeks looking into heritage sites in the four settlement areas: Wellesley village, St. Clements, Hawkesville and Linwood.

Ron Hackett, chair of the Wellesley Township Heritage and Historical Society, said they decided to start the designation process with Hawkesville because residents there seemed most amenable to the idea.
“The people of Hawkesville displayed an appreciation for keeping Hawkesville and its historical things intact,” he said.

In a presentation to council, Marg Rowell of the University of Waterloo’s Heritage Resource Centre said the boundaries of any heritage conservation district would be up to the residents. The centre’s report on its findings proposes a boundary that includes the core of the village along Geddes Street, the cemetery and the Conestoga River flats – a starting point for discussion.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to go into a public meeting and say ‘this is the boundary,’” she said.
In response to a question from Coun. Shelley Wagner, Rowell said the river lands are included because they’re an important part of the landscape of Hawkesville and many of the residents surveyed identified the river valley when asked what they liked about the village.

It would also be up to residents to decide how restrictive or permissive the policies of the district would be, she explained. Some plans restrict the colours that buildings can be painted, while others only limit major changes to the façade of buildings in the district.

“That’s really negotiable, how restrictive or lenient the plan is going to be,” Rowell said.

Usually designation of a heritage conservation district takes a year or two, but with the preliminary work already completed by the students, the village could be designated within a year, she said.

Hackett noted that Hawkesville has a number of heritage structures and features that are worth protecting, including the Hawke house, built by John Hawke, founder of the village; the community centre, formerly a school; and the cemetery, which dates back to the time of the first settlers.

The idea is not to preserve Hawkesville exactly as it stands, Hackett said, but to ensure changes are in keeping with the historical character of the village.

“It’s not to keep it frozen in time.”

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