St. Mary’s advances heritage properties bylaw

·2 min read

ST. MARY’S – St. Mary’s district council concluded its Jan. 6 committee of the whole meeting by approving first reading of a new heritage properties by-law and appointing that committee as the supervising authority.

“We have also included the option of having two people from outside council, from the public, but that’s not [going] to tie the hands of the committee if we don’t have volunteers,” said Chief Administrative Officer Marvin MacDonald at the meeting.

The heritage regulation has languished on the district’s books, hobbled by a lack of public engagement in the committee established to enforce it, for 15 years. The previous by-law, approved in 1989, stated that a “Heritage Advisory Committee [should be] composed of not less than five nor more than seven members, all of whom shall be residents of the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s” and appointed annually for one-year terms to advice civic authorities on the disposition and designation of the area’s heritage lands and buildings.

But its irrelevance became apparent earlier this year when council was unable to process a request to deregister a particular municipal heritage property in the district. At the time, MacDonald said, “the Heritage Properties By-Law is certainly dated. Council will be exploring its status and make decisions on it.”

Last week’s deliberation was also the first audio-taped committee of the whole meeting since mid-summer – fulfilling council’s chief post-election promise in October to provide residents with a new level of transparency in office.

The district began recording its proceedings when the provincial government imposed social distancing requirements on public gatherings in March, but abandoned the practice as the number of COVID-19 cases dropped.

The timing of the new by-law – which arrived after 40 minutes of polite conversation on everything from mining to zoning – was just about perfect. MacDonald said Halifax urban planning firm Fathom Studio is expected to deliver a fully revamped municipal planning strategy and land-use bylaw for the district on Jan. 26.

Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal