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Woolwich adds West Montrose homes to its heritage list

The cultural heritage landscape (CHL) surrounding the West Montrose covered bridge now encompasses several properties in the vicinity, as Woolwich council this week added them to the municipal heritage register.

Properties at 5, 12 and 42 Covered Bridge Dr.; 245 Hill St.; 1118 Letson Dr.; 1060, 1238, 1239 and 1242 River’s Edge Dr.; and the private buggy bridge at 1051 Buggy Lane were listed for their “character defining attributes.”

This week’s decision puts more meat on the bones of the CHL designation approved in 2011, providing an extra layer of protection for the area’s historic character, in some instances requiring a heritage study prior to development within the lands of the CHL.

The area covers some 1,670 acres bounded by Northfield Drive to the west, Line 86 to the north, Katherine Street to the east and an irregular line to the south to a point beyond a line extending from Maryhill Road. Along with the bridge and older homes in the immediate vicinity, the CHL designation encompasses the surrounding environment and views that makes up the historical context of the structure.

Director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley was quick to point out at Tuesday night’s meeting of council that inclusion on the heritage list is not the same as heritage designation, which provides for stricter controls. In this case, inclusion on the list basically provides the township with some leeway – an extra 60 days – should the property owner request a demolition permit.

Essentially, it gives the municipality time to look at whether a building should be protected if there’s a move to tear it down, he explained.

Coun. Mark Bauman said he sees this process as moving down a path that puts restrictions on property owners, a theme he’s raised repeatedly over the years when heritage issues have been raised.

“This is the start of the slippery slope.”

Coun. Julie-Anne Herteis raised similar concerns about restrictions on homeowners doing renovations to their properties.

Kennaley, however, said the heritage list is nothing like the sometimes onerous restrictions of heritage designations, which can impose a whole host of limitations.

“They are two completely different things,” he maintained.

The properties’ inclusion on the township list doesn’t automatically lead to heritage designation, he added. In some cases, that might be encouraged, but it would never be forced. That step would only come with the support of the owner.

That explanation somewhat mollified the lone homeowner to raise concerns about the process. Rivers Edge Drive resident Brian Hendrick said he worried that inclusion on the list would lead to further restrictions, limiting what owners could do and negatively impacting property values.

“We really aren’t excited about the next level,” he said of the potential for designation under the Heritage Act.

Kennaley said that would not be the case.

“There won’t be a slippery slope in this instance.”

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