By Doug Hallett
Fifteen delegations have signed up to speak at a city council committee meeting today that will consider the fate of a farmhouse that sits vacant at the edge of a north end park.
People on both sides of the highly contentious issue will seek to persuade councillors on the community and social services committee during the 5 p.m. Sept. 17 meeting at city hall.
Among those urging council to reject a staff recommendation to demolish the 1850s farmhouse is Stacy Collison. She wants to buy it. In a letter to city hall, she says she wants to buy the farmhouse to live in and to use as new, larger premises for her daycare.“I remember playing in the cornfields on the farm as a child, and I know the beauty it once had and know that beauty can be found again,” says Collison, a lifelong resident of the north end.
Collison’s daycare already uses the new park next to the farmhouse, she says. “We often have picnics and play dates at the Wilson Farm Park – it is the perfect location for my growing business.”
Many residents of the area have spent years trying to get city hall to agree to demolish the farmhouse and incorporate the property into the neighbourhood park.
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.
After failing to find a use for the farmhouse, council decided in 2010 to sever and sell the farmhouse property and to develop the adjacent park without this land. In 2011, council agreed to reconsider this decision, but it voted 7-6 against reconsidering a motion it had passed to designate the farmhouse under the Ontario Heritage Act.
Council’s intention to designate the farmhouse was appealed by the Northern Heights Liaison Group to the province’s Heritage Conservation Review Board, but the review board dismissed the appeal.
The review board concurred with the city’s position that the farmhouse is “a benchmark for the community and reflective of the city’s once-vibrant agricultural past.”
Heritage Guelph, city hall’s 12-member heritage advisory committee, wants council to proceed with designating the farmhouse under the Ontario Heritage Act. It passed a motion last week strongly opposing the staff recommendation to demolish the building.
A city staff report released this month urges council to withdraw its notice of intention to designate the farmhouse.
It says the city should demolish the farmhouse, at a cost of $30,000 to $50,000, and make the farmhouse property part of the park.
The report estimates that the city could sell the farmhouse property for more than $200,000, but staff do not recommend doing this.
Staff also don’t recommend two options for preserving the farmhouse, which has been known both as the Ingram farmhouse and the Wilson farmhouse after former owners. One of the options is to go ahead with designation and restore the farmhouse, at a cost to the city of about $450,000. The other is to “mothball” the building for the time being, at a cost of about $200,000.
Delegates listed to speak to the committee today also include Mike Lackowicz, a member of the Northern Heights Liaison Group, which supports the new city staff recommendation to demolish.
Heritage Guelph spokesperson Mary Tivy will also address the committee.
By Doug Hallett