The following questions came from the local chapter of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO). They were sent to all mayoral and deputy-mayoral candidates, but I am unsure whether council candidates also got them. My responses are below.
The questions were preceded by this:
Questions regarding Collingwood’s Heritage
Members of the Collingwood Branch of the ACO have prepared the following questionnaire to ascertain candidates’ positions on a number of important issues regarding the future of one of our town’s most valuable resources – our historic architecture and cultural heritage. Once compiled, your responses will be posted to our Facebook site. Please make your answers brief. A response would be appreciated by September 18. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule.
Question 1: Describe your personal view of the importance of Collingwood’s cultural and architectural heritage.
Answer: I was on the council that voted unanimously to designate the heritage district. I support maintaining and preserving our heritage buildings and cultural landmarks both inside and outside the district, as well as the incentives to maintain them.
I served on Collingwood’s library and museum boards, and am on the Simcoe County library, museums and archives board, all of which have given me a good appreciation of Collingwood’s and the region’s history and culture.
Question 2: Collingwood currently supports three incentive programs to maintain and to preserve its heritage. Would you continue this support to the extent of increasing the Heritage Tax Rebate program to be more in line with what other communities offer?
Answer: Supporting the program: yes. Increasing it: in principle yes, but council would need a staff report that detailed the financial impact of any increase and to discuss it openly. I would also like to see some comparisons of what other municipalities offer. I would personally want to speak to building owners to get their perspective on what would be a reasonable amount.
Question 3: With the goal of expanding Collingwood’s Heritage District, $10,000 has been put in to a reserve fund for the past three years. How would you support this goal during your term of office?
Answer: Any proposed expansion should be first communicated to the affected property owners, explaining the effects and the responsibilities they will have to shoulder. That should be complemented by public information sessions and public consultation before any changes are made. The public must be fully engaged in the process.
I would want to be assured that expanding the district’s borders was more effective in preserving our heritage than creating smaller satellite heritage zones or a program to designate individual buildings outside the zone.
I would prefer to offer incentives to property owners to add their properties to the district rather than force anyone into it. Plus, I would want to see an assessment of the proposed expansion area(s) and an inventory of the buildings to be assured they are indeed heritage properties or of sufficient percentage to warrant any change.
Question 4: Would you support or not support hiring a full-time heritage planner for the Town of Collingwood, to coordinate the administration of Collingwood’s Heritage District and heritage properties; particularly to address compliance and inconsistencies of property owners adhering to heritage by-laws.
Answer: Before the town hires any new staff, council needs to receive a report on the financial impact of that position on the town’s budget and a comparison of what it will cost versus any potential revenues the role might bring. I would want to be assured by the planning department that adding a specialized planner is necessary, that the workload justifies it, and further assurances that it must be fulfilled by a planner rather than a bylaw officer trained in the bylaws, or perhaps a technician. Or perhaps the town could upgrade the education of an existing staff member to manage these issues.
Without a comprehensive report on the position and the finances, I cannot make a fair evaluation of the proposal.