ERA Architects

The importance of a heritage designation

Chris Selley has an article in today’s National Post discussing the convoluted status of the John B. Maclean House at 7 Austin Terrace, designed by architect John Lyle.

On Wednesday, Toronto and East York Community Council recommended that a demolition permit for John B. Maclean House be refused on two separate grounds: under Section 34 of the Ontario Heritage Act (because it’s a designated heritage building), and under Section 111 of the City of Toronto Act, which concerns the demolition of rental properties.

But the council also recommended that a demolition permit be approved under Section 33 of the Planning Act (which concerns residential properties, irrespective of whether they’re rental properties), subject to eight very strict conditions — one of which is that the owner obtain a demolition permit under the Ontario Heritage Act, which (see above) council simultaneously recommended be refused.

To clarify (slightly): City staff and the community council certainly do not want the house demolished. But they had no choice except to recommend the demolition permit be issued, because, as planning staff wrote in their report to council, “where a building permit has been issued to construct a new building on a property, the courts have held that city council cannot refuse the demolition permit.”

You heard correctly: The developer has a building permit for 7 Austin Terrace — only not for the eight townhouses and six apartment units he wants to build, but rather for a single, three-storey house that he presumably does not want to build.

[W]e should take [local City Councillor Joe] Mihevc up on his proposal to treat the John B. Maclean House as a “test case for what powers [enforcement officers] do have and what powers they need to still get from the province.” If we are, in fact, fighting a hopeless battle for Toronto’s heritage buildings, it’s time to either rearm or surrender.

Read the full article.