Council approves revised heritage work plan 

During the Tuesday, Jun. 6, 2023, Kingston City Council meeting, councillors approved a new heritage work plan as recommended by City staff. Screen captured image.

During a meeting on Tuesday, Jun. 6, 2023, Kingston City Council approved a recommendation from staff which will effectively place a moratorium on new heritage policy work until the end of 2024, as the City works to review over 312 properties currently listed as sites for potential heritage designation. The move comes after changes made to the Ontario Heritage Act (OHA), through the provincial government’s new Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022, place new restrictions on the amount of time a municipality has to review an application for heritage designation. 

Under the current guidelines within the OHA, municipalities must maintain a “register of properties within its jurisdiction that are of cultural value and interest,” noted a staff report distributed in advance of Tuesday’s meeting. The “municipal heritage register” establishes three categories of properties: those of cultural value and or interest, heritage conservation districts, and “any other properties that are considered to have cultural heritage value or interest but are not individually designated.” 

Now, due to changes included within Bill 23, properties currently included in the third category, often referred to as listed properties, can only stay on the register until January 1, 2025. By that deadline, the municipality must officially designate the properties in question, or they will become de-registered; a new provision of the bill stipulates that properties cannot be re-listed for a minimum of five years. Any new properties added to the register after January 1, 2025, can only stay listed for a maximum of two years. 

When a municipality lists a property, the site enjoys certain heritage protections, such as a requirement for property owners to give Council 60 days’ notice prior to any intended demolition. According to the staff report, there are currently 312 listed properties on the City of Kingston municipal register, all of which will need to be thoroughly reviewed over the next 18 months. 

Besides the new timelines, Bill 23 further amends the OHA by establishing a new set of eligibility criteria a property must meet in order to become a designated heritage property. Under Bill 23, properties must meet a minimum of two of the nine criteria included in Ontario Regulation 9/06. These criteria include rare or unique design value, a high degree of craftsmanship, evidence of technical or scientific achievement, and “direct associations” with an event or person. Properties that yield “information that contributes to an understanding of a community or culture” may also be eligible, as may properties deemed to be important to “defining, maintaining, or supporting the character of an area.” Previously, a designated property only needed to meet one of three criteria.

With the new timelines and eligibility criteria in place, councillors were presented with a revised heritage work plan that would allow staff to focus on the 312 listed properties ahead of the January 1, 2025, deadline. As staff work to vet the listed properties, the report recommended a moratorium on “new heritage policy work” until the end of 2024, which included deferring a review of the Procedural Bylaw For Heritage — a process which was supposed to take place in 2023 — until 2025.

“There are not enough Heritage planning staff at the City to support the review process, while continuing to process record-high volumes of permits and advancing the designations required due to the changes in effect under [Bill 23],” the staff report noted. “Given the volume of similar work happening across municipalities in Ontario, there is an added challenge in seeking support from professional consultants and independent heritage researchers who are themselves a scarce resource in increasingly high demand.” Staff instead recommended the review be included as part of the CIty’s 2025 work plan. 

When the report was presented to Council during Tuesday’s meeting, there was no debate from councillors, as the recommendations were passed by unanimous consent.

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