A Reality Check for Cookstown

A one-day seminar was held in Cookstown over the weekend to present information about the Cookstown Heritage Conservation District, which encompasses most of the village. It was well attended by Innisfil residents, residents of other towns, Council members and the local Member of Parliament.

The experience of other existing heritage districts in Ontario was meant to demonstrate what is possible, and emphasized that the heritage designation is meant to “encourage”, not “prohibit”.

The first speaker, Bruce Corley, is a heritage consultant and an international expert in “documentation and measured drawings of historic buildings”. He began with an initial assessment of Cookstown as having “good bones” capable of supporting positive improvements and discussed the commercial opportunities that may be available from different types such as residents, commuters and tourists.

Before long, Mr. Corley was presenting a blunt, and at times, alarming description of the real-world forces shaping urban communities. Cookstown, he said, would face the greatest change since being designated a ‘police village’ in 1901. It “cannot be stopped, only directed.” This farming community is about to be “transformed into something unrecognizable”. Continue reading

CHCD + OMB = MIA

Update: The OMB issued a decision on May 7, 2015 dismissing the resident’s appeal against designating a Cookstown Heritage Conservation District. After this unfortunate delay, I hope Cookstown residents can come together to collectively and creatively redefine a fresh new future for Cookstown.

Some of you may remember the uproar over the town’s vote in early April 2014 to create a Cookstown Heritage Conservation District (CHCD). The intention was to help preserve the village character of Cookstown. Designation would have provided some incentive for preservation over demolition of historic heritage buildings. The second part of the plan was to provide public funding for voluntary property improvements through a Cookstown Community Improvement Plan (CIP).

Continue reading

Cookstown Heritage District OMB Hearing August 7

I really thought this issue would drift into fall before a hearing date was set. Instead the challenge to the town’s Cookstown Heritage Conservation District bylaw will be heard by the OMB in the Town’s Council Chamber on August 7 beginning at 10:30 a.m. OMB hearings are public and residents can attend. Continue reading

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.  Continue reading

Cookstown: If not Heritage Conservation, then what?

Some of you may have seen a letter to the local press denouncing Town Council for approving “in principle” a plan to designate a Heritage Conservation District in Cookstown.  (Fighting to preserve civil rights in Innisfil)

A partial survey of 103 households organized by opponents showed 70 households, about 36% of the 224 proposed for heritage designation, are against a plan Continue reading

Cookstown Heritage District – for the Greater Good

My father used to say that the purpose of government was to create “the greatest good for the greatest number”. Coincidentally, the motto of Simcoe County is “For the Greater Good”. That perspective seemed to be missing from the public consultations held on November 26 for the proposed creation of a Cookstown Heritage District. According to press reports, about 100 residents attended the last meeting in Cookstown, with a number of people voicing opposition to the idea. Continue reading