By Doug Hallett
A city councillor who has been at the heart of efforts to save the Wilson farmhouse hopes the issue does not end in a demolition decision at next Monday’s council meeting.
A new city staff report, which recommends demolition of the farmhouse located in a north end subdivision in Ward 2, “is pretty much what I expected,” Ward 2 councillor Ian Findlay said Friday.
Staff also recommended demolition last fall. But council decided in November to solicit expressions of interest from the public proposing uses for the historic building on the edge of a park on Simmonds Drive.
None of the five submissions the city received met with staff’s approval. So staff are recommending the farmhouse be demolished “while documenting and salvaging, where possible, significant architectural and heritage features” of the building. The land would then be incorporated into the park.
The report gives council an alternative to approving demolition at this time. It says council might want to consider one or more of the submissions in more detail by referring the matter to an ad-hoc subcommittee of council for further assessment and evaluation. That’s the route Findlay wants council to take on May 12. “I would hate to think it would die on Monday,” he said.As things stand, council doesn’t have enough information to make a proper decision, because financial information and other numbers contained in the five submissions were “redacted” and don’t appear in the staff report, Findlay said.
He said he wants an ad-hoc committee not only to look at the numbers, but also to talk to the proponents.
“Maybe there are synergies between some of the applications,” he said. “Three of the applications do speak to community use” of the building.
The city accepted submissions for 120 days, and two open houses were held at the farmhouse to let potential proponents look inside. Despite this, the staff report says, “no group has come forward with a fully developed submission that adequately addresses staff’s concerns related to the city’s ongoing financial obligations, community uses and heritage considerations in a manner that can be successfully implemented with a reasonable amount of certainty and expedience.”
So, it states, none of the submissions are “appropriate for further consideration.”
Two of the submissions, one from The NORM Group and the other from a group headed by Ben Barclay, propose renovating the farmhouse for a variety of uses including demonstrations of green living.
Another would see the nearby Trillium Waldorf School lease space for a parent-and-child program during the school year.
Another, from Ted Pritchard, proposes converting the farmhouse into a “functional monument” with the main floor removed and the second floor held in place by support pillars.
The fifth submission, from Kristen Bustamante, proposes using the property for a for-profit bakery, community rental space and possibly a community garden.
If council votes to demolish the farmhouse, it will need to withdraw a notice of intent previously passed a few years ago to designate the building under the Ontario Heritage Act.
The farmhouse, last occupied in 2005, was deeded to the city along with adjacent parkland when a new housing subdivision in the area was registered. It would cost the city between $30,000 and $50,000 to demolish it, the report says.
The other Ward 2 councillor, Andy Van Hellemond, could not be reached for comment.
By Doug Hallett