By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
After some technical difficulties with the meeting's YouTube stream, Mayor Al Strathdee answered two public input questions to begin last Tuesday's first regular meeting of the St. Marys Town Council.
The first question asked if any members of the Council had traveled outside of Canada over the holidays. Mayor Strathdee said that he is unaware of any Councillors traveling abroad over the holidays and that the Council is doing its best to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols. The second question asked if the municipality had the authority to define what an essential business is and impose restrictions if needed. Strathdee said the Town doesn't have such authority as that is determined by the province of Ontario. The Mayor also noted that the Town is receiving updated guidance on what is deemed to be essential.
Once into the main business of this week's meeting, the focus was on heritage property designations. First, Amy Cubberley joined the meeting to present a report on a proposal to give a heritage site designation to 345 Wellington Street South. This property was being considered for a heritage designation last year but the onset of the provincial shutdown pushed it onto the back-burner. The heritage designation of 345 Wellington Street South was approved by the Council.
Cubberley also spoke to a report on the proposed additions to the Municipal Register of Non-Designated Heritage Properties. The list of 13 properties proposed to be added was whittled down from 98 by the St. Marys Heritage Advisory Committee, according to Cubberley. The Register is mainly a public education resource as the only restriction for properties on the register is a notification 60 days in advance if the property was to be demolished. There haven't been any additions by St. Marys since 2018. The initial list included these 13 properties:
• 524 Elgin Street West
• 99 Water Street North
• 129 Water Street North
• 100 Wellington Street North
• 145 Church Street North
• 158 King Street North
• 202 Widder Street East
• 24 Robinson Street
• 140 Emily Street
• 81 Wellington Street North
• 338 Elizabeth Street (St. Marys D.C.V.I)
• 403 Queen Street East
• 164 Wellington Street South
The process is somewhat flawed as it adds properties to the register without first consulting with the homeowner to gauge their interest in being on the list. If someone wants their property removed from the Register, they must apply to have it taken off. It isn't a designation process with the only restriction to property owners, as previously stated, is a mandatory 60-day notice for demolition. The register is otherwise mainly a public resource for properties of historical or cultural significance. It should also be noted that the Heritage Committee was seeking Council's approval only to contact the 13 property owners in regards to adding their property to the Register. This report and proposed motion did not itself add these properties to the Register.
The only property that raised some questions about its inclusion was St. Marys D.C.V.I, as it isn't a residential unit like the majority of the other properties on the list. More than one Councillor questioned the inclusion of the school on the Register and after a discussion about the high school being added to the list, an amendment was proposed to remove D.C.V.I. from the list. However, the motion was defeated by a 3-2 vote, and the subsequent motion to approve the Heritage Committee to contact the 13 property owners was approved by the Council.
Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent