Admiral Collingwood Place

Admiral Collingwood Place

Will that gaping hole at the corner of Hume & Hurontario ever go away? Not too soon according to the heritage consultant hired by the Town of Collingwood and not soon enough according to supporters of the project.

Build it, and build it now was the message delivered to an audience of approximately 350 to 400 people who crowded into the Royal Canadian Legion, Sunday afternoon, in a show of support for the Admiral Collingwood Place development.

The event was organized by Dunc Hawkins, Brian Hickey and Don Paul; all three have emphasized they have no ties to the project’s developer Steve Assaff, nor have a “vested interest” in seeing the property develop. The rally featured six speakers, including downtown business owners, and residents both recently-moved to the community, and long-time residents.

Council is expected to deliberate on zoning and official plan amendments to allow the six-storey residential and commercial project to go ahead. Up until Sunday, councillors had only regularly heard from local heritage advocates calling on the town to respect the bylaw governing the downtown heritage district which limits development to three stories; the six council members who were in the legion’s auditorium would have gotten a completely different message from the public.

Former mayor Ron Emo, one of the six speakers said that while we need heritage guidelines, they must be flexible to allow the entrepreneurs putting their money at risk to develop their vision.  Downtown businessman Wayne Noble took direct aim at those arguing in favour of limiting the height to three stories, accusing them of only recently moving to Collingwood.

Another speaker cautioned that the town could continue to be stuck with a hole at the southern entrance to the main street. Margo Bulmer, whose late husband John maintained his law practice in the downtown, praised the “foresight” of downtown landowners who have refurbished their heritage buildings. However, she noted, the community “can’t tie itself so much to ideals that the project remains at a standstill.” (Enterrprise Bulletin).

Organizers have also launched a petition similar to the 2007 petition that garnered 2,200 names, calling on the council of the day to move ahead with the project.

And, in a nod to the report by the town-hired heritage planner that was critical of the project, “the people who live in town are the real experts,” said Hickey. “In the end, the people will speak.”

The heritage consultant hired by the Town of Collingwood, Wayne Morgan has a different viewpoint. In a 75-page peer review of Admiral Collingwood Place and Admiral’s Village, Wayne Morgan says the development of a six-storey building at the corner of Hume and Hurontario is inconsistent with the objectives of the downtown heritage district. Doesn’t this sound familiar?!

Morgan also states that there are several amendments to the Heritage District bylaw that would have to be passed in order for the project to go ahead in its current form. Furthermore these ammendments are not appropriate given provincial, county and municipal policy framework. A number of site-specific amendments to the objectives of the heritage district plan exempting the project are with respect to height, scale, massing, storefront entrances, awnings, window treatments, and structural bays. Morgan states that, “recommended amendments… are not appropriate as they do not conserve the heritage character of the district.”

Morgan wrote that provincial policy under the Planning Act, and the Simcoe County Official Plan, require that development within a “cultural heritage landscape, which includes the Collingwood Downtown Heritage Conservation District, conserve the heritage values, attributes and integrity of such a landscape.”

In addition, according to the Ministry of Culture guide to heritage districts, development on vacant lands within a district must be in keeping with the character of the area and the Simcoe County Official Plan requires that significant cultural heritage landscapes be conserved.

Morgan supports the conclusions of the peer review of the revised heritage impact assessment submitted for the original project in 2006 in which the HIA concluded that although the proposed development was consistent with the requirements for the district, it was contrary to the maintenance of the heritage character of the district.

While Morgan is unfavourable towards Admiral Collingwood Place, he is complimentary of the four-storey Admiral’s Village project proposed for the Hume and St. Marie corner.

The project and bylaw decision will come to council, February 6, 2012. Given the widespread community support for the development and for its proposed six storeys, most people are betting it will get the approvals it needs. However, it still may be taken to the OMB by its opponents. There may even be sufficient support at council to eliminate the entire heritage district, if the opposition to this project continues. That hasn’t be proposed to date but opposition to the heritage district in general has been expressed by several members of the public who are fed up with the delays to this development.