Cookstown’s Heritage District Going to OMB Appeal

I first wrote about the proposal for a Cookstown Heritage District around October 2011. In February 2012, I noted that the Town was looking for volunteers to form a Heritage Committee.  In early 2013, the first public meeting was held in Cookstown concerning Phase 1 of a Heritage Conservation District.

On April 9, a group of Cookstown residents filed an appeal of Council’s vote to establish a Heritage Conservation District at the Ontario Municipal Board. Since the appeal is unlikely to be heard anytime soon, the appellants have succeeded in making the plan an election issue. 

The Heritage Conservation District would establish guidelines and require approval from a local Heritage Committee before ‘substantial’ exterior alterations or demolition could be made within the specified district. No one is required to make any exterior renovations although some funds would be made available under a separate program. The group that includes Angela Cristini, Lavana Zmoh and others have expressed the following concerns:

  • They believe individual property rights are absolute and trump any claim by the municipality to regulate development including some exterior alterations or demolition. This is a position likely to be enthusiastically embraced by some developers.
  • They claim that Cookstown is uniquely unsuitable for a Heritage District since “There are no other communities facing the same economic and infrastructure challenges as Cookstown [that] the consulting group hired by the town could compare us to”
  • They claim that they may face potential economic hardship, since, if they proposed exterior alterations, they say it may require consulting an architect or engineer. It seems to me this possibility would be directly related to the scope of the proposed alteration, regardless of whether a Heritage designation existed. They also suggest insurance costs could be higher with Heritage designation, although I’m not sure why, unless a renovation increased the value of the property.
  • They suggest Heritage designation could make their property more difficult to sell, reducing its resale value.

The OMB will schedule a hearing to decide if the appeal will be allowed or dismissed. Ms. Cristini and her group are asking Cookstown residents to financially support and participate in their appeal.