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Protecting city heritage

With council set to make a final decision by September on creating Guelph’s first heritage conservation district, the city will hold a public open house on Tuesday June 24 at city hall.
It will be part of a long string of public meetings on this issue. At public consultation meetings and at city council meetings over the past 3 1/2 years, the issue of creating a Brooklyn and College Hill Heritage Conservation District has been intriguing to watch. That’s mainly because of the difficult balance being pursued here between property rights and the greater good of preserving a significant part of Guelph’s heritage.
The Ontario Heritage Act came into force in 1975, allowing municipalities and the province to designate individual properties and districts as being of cultural heritage value. In 2005, the ability of municipalities to refuse demolition permits for designated properties was strengthened.
Guelph’s first proposed heritage district includes an area south of the river down to Forbes Avenue, which was known as Brooklyn after being subdivided for residential lots in the mid-1800s. Further south, closer to the U of G and its colleges, the proposed district includes part of what has been known as the College Hill area. The number of properties in the heritage district has been cut to 162 from the original 191, partly owing to a successful fight by James Street East property owners to stay out of the heritage district.
City hall has big plans for the downtown, including highrises on the north side of Wellington Street. A low-rise commercial plaza is being built near Wellington on the north edge of Guelph’s much-loved Royal City Park. This park is within the proposed heritage district.
If the heritage district is approved, buildings within it won’t get any taller than they are now, and heritage buildings, landscapes and riverscapes within it will be protected as the area evolves.
It’s a highly worthwhile vision.

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