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Owner of Park Hill property gearing up to fight city over pending heritage designation

Developer is framing the costs he incurred since getting pre-consultation approval a year ago as the city's fault

The owner of a property at the corner of Park Hill Road East and Market Street has submitted plans to demolish a deteriorating, brick building and replace it with a three-storey, 10-unit mixed-use apartment.

But now that heritage planners and the city's heritage advisory committee want to save the building, those plans could be headed to a showdown at the Ontario Land Tribunal.

A consultant for the developer, Scott Patterson, is scheduled to appear before council Tuesday to speak to a letter from his client's lawyer opposing the city's notice of intention to designate (NOID) the building under the Ontario Heritage Act. 

He's expected to outline the owner's intention to appeal the heritage designation and urge the city to work with the owner instead. 

A presentation released in Tuesday's council package outlines the costs the property's owner has incurred so far to get the green light from city planners. He blames staff for not highlighting any heritage concerns when he submitted his application over a year ago.

A pre-consultation application to the city in January 2023 was returned with "no comments" from senior heritage planner Laura Waldie and no requirement the developer submit a heritage impact study.

"The landowner proceeded in good faith with the project and incurred the costs to do so," Patterson said.

Those costs included $840 in city legal fees necessary for site plan approval.

Prior to submitting the site plan last October, the owner retained an architect, had engineering drawings completed and met various other requirements.

Following that, he applied for a demolition permit to remove the building he says was the repeated target of vandalism and break-ins.

Copper pipes and electrical wires were stripped out of the walls and the rooms were being used as "public washrooms" by vagrants, Patterson says in a presentation to council.

In order to secure the building and prevent any further damage, the city agreed to disconnect electrical and water from the building and charged the owner close to $7,000 to do it. 

Patterson contends the only remaining features of significance are the exterior brick work and other "decorative details," some of which the owner believes could be incorporated into the design of the new building.

The battle over the future of 44-46 Park Hill Road East began in November, when the proposal was brought to the attention of the city's heritage advisory committee in a rushed meeting to meet a deadline for the demolition permit application.

The city wanted to advance the proposal with a report and recommendation allowing the demolition. 

But after reviewing the history of the property, heritage planner Jeremy Parsons appeared to have second thoughts.

Although the property is not listed on the heritage register, it is adjacent to a listed property.

Parsons told MHAC he only had a few days to investigate the building's heritage value but knew its building date was somewhere between 1867 and 1875. 

MHAC thought the "workers' cottage" was worth saving and recommended council initiate the heritage designation. 

Council agreed to apply for a provincial heritage designation the following week.

Staff have since investigated the building's heritage value further and now feel it meets even more criteria to make worthy of designation.

"Several" architectural features are representative of the work of George Dando, a locally important builder and bricklayer in Galt.

The owner's lawyer sent a letter opposing the NOID in December.

But planning staff aren't swayed by the objection and will ask council Tuesday to move forward with the designation during a special council meeting.

The consultant for the owner wants council to defer its decision and have staff work something out. 

Tuesday's council meeting begins at 5 p.m.