Central Huron Council moves forward on heritage de-designation for hall, library
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Central Huron Council has begun the process of de-designating the Clinton Town Hall and Clinton Library as heritage properties under the Ontario Heritage Act.
Council discussed the issue at its April 19 meeting, saying that costs to renovate the buildings in the coming years will be very high as a result of the designation. Chief Administrative Officer Steve Doherty said renovations to the buildings would be made with the heritage of the buildings in mind, but by de-designating the buildings, the municipality would have much more freedom in regards to materials and contractors when it comes time to make improvements to the buildings.
“The Clinton Town Hall and Library properties were designated under the Heritage Act in 1978 after the Town of Clinton received a heritage grant to perform some much-needed building renovations/maintenance. Under the current designation, staff have to consult with the Ontario Heritage Trust on every aspect of maintenance/replacement/renovation. The Trust’s perspective requirements not only increase the costs of repair and maintenance work, but also introduce project delays because many local vendors can’t perform the work to a heritage standard or the materials required aren’t readily available,” Doherty said in his report.
“Staff understand the value of the architectural features of the Town Hall and Library and the pride that residents have in these buildings and we would aspire to maintain the look and feel of each building as ongoing maintenance work continues. Staff recommend that council should apply to de-designate so maintenance costs and future building decisions can reside with council as opposed to the province.”
Doherty mentioned some of the work that needs to be done and options that would not be available to staff if the heritage designation is upheld. First and foremost, he said, would be windows that open. That option, he said, would be good for staff’s comfort in the building and essential in the era of COVID-19.
Doherty suggested that the de-designation process is warranted because, after 43 years, any improvements the province’s heritage grant funding paid for are well beyond their useful life and thus, any obligations under that funding agreement should have ended.
He also said that, since that decision was made, amalgamation has taken place and two-thirds of Central Huron citizens have seen their municipal offices closed, but now they would have to pay “excessive” costs to maintain the building in Clinton.
“The 43-year-old designation prescribes current councillors to financial obligations that they never agreed to. Moreover, in this era of provincial cutbacks and service downloads, Central Huron can not be expected to maintain assets to the heritage standard when even basic maintenance and material costs are exceedingly higher than they were in 1978,” Doherty said in his report.
“The Ontario Heritage Trust prescribes that we renovate to a certain standard, but [does] not offer funding or alternatives when we cannot afford to proceed based on their requirements. This can result in the municipality being forced to do nothing, in which case building features deteriorate and other issues arise.”
Council agreed with Doherty, saying renovations to the building have simply grown too expensive as a result of the designation and passed a motion based on his recommendation.