Impact of Heritage Designation

The proposal to designate neighbourhoods as Heritage Conservation Districts is a process that also affects the property rights of owners and which turns individual properties into a collective streetscape where an unelected advisory committee and a city bureaucracy control what the owner can and cannot do with the facades, foundations, windows, doors or roofs of their homes/buildings which are visible from any angle from the street. Homeowners will be tied to stringent regulations about the facade, windows and foundations which severely limit a property owners ability to replace windows or create new windows, repair or protect cladding , replace roofing materials, replace or create dormers or skylights.  Creating a new opening in your street facade to dig out and then access basements will not be allowed. Innovations such solar collectors will also be unacceptable.  Both Heritage Preservation Services (a department of the City) and the  Cabbagetown Heritage Conservation District Advisory Committee are working towards designating Cabbagetown South as a Heritage Conservation District.  The following is an outline and illustration that would not be allowed under  Heritage Conservation District Designation.

The house pictured here on the left is a renovated Ontario Cottage Style House which was raised up off its foundation, a new basement level was added,as well as a new second story addition, new windows and a new brick facade.  What is now a family sized home would not be acceptable under Conservation District rules.  Workers cottages with their small footprint and difficult layout seem to be a difficult sell to the modern home buyer.  Most buyers are looking for at least two to three bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, spacious kitchen, high ceilings and good natural light which the cottage style does not provide. Many cottage style houses are on slab foundations or crawl space basements. (as illustrated by the unrenovated cottage next to it)   Although a potential alternative to a condo these smaller cottages need room to expand.   Heritage Designation would not allow similar houses to be raised up to accommodate an above grade basement or any kind of rear addition which would be visible from a street.  

There are many examples of smaller homes in the area that have gone through renovations, some minor, some major and it is this diversity in approach that makes the streetscape interesting.  Do neighbourhoods stay frozen in time or make natural transitions coloured by the needs and fashion of the day?  The house on the left appears to have been raised off its foundations at some point and had a full height basement added.    

The photograph below right is an example of another Ontario Cottage Style Home that was modernized to bring in more light and apparently was raised up off the foundation to create more living space in the basement level.  The home retains the sightlines and general feel of the Ontario Cottage Style while bringing the home up to date.  Under Heritage Designation the glass dormer, the new windows, the brick facade and the basement level window wells would not be permitted  This is a modern take on the classic cottage style with a  new dormer, porch and the fence, similar but very different from the house on the left but no less appealing.   

Front porches, new bay windows, new dormers and cedar shingles have completely reinvented what were two run down houses pictured lower left.  Digging out basements and adding new windows at the lower level increases the useable square footage, creating living space where there once was none. There is a large number of homes in the area that currently do not have full height basements and the ability to dig out the basements, alter the lower facade and regrade at the foundation level to increase usable square footage with a street facing basement window or door is an option  to increase headroom and living space.

Raising the roof to increase headspace in the attic level is also an approach that property owners have taken to increase liveable space in their homes.  The addition of skylights also greatly increases the amount of natural light in long narrow houses. Heritage Conservation District designation clearly disallows any kind of change to roof lines which are visible from a street, lane or side streets.  The raised roof line is visible from across the street but does not impact when the house is viewed from the sidewalk in front of the property.  There needs to be clear and reasonable vantage point when accessing  what is visible on the street facade. 

Adding a new bay window to increase light has been a popular renovation project for many homeowners.  Although the new bay window adds additional space to the home's interior, such improvements would  be ruled inappropriate under Heritage Designation.  The painted brick exterior would also be considered inappropriate under Heritage rules.

Increasing the opening and the size of an existing window obviously brings more light into a space. The house pictured on the right features studio space in a dug out basement which is now flooded with natural light through a new and improved window opening.  As many homeowners opt to work from home,  opportunity to increase the living/work space is considered a welcome addition to the diversity of housing in the area.  

Rebricking or refacing you facade would be subject to stringent rules.  Many homes over the years started out as clapboard and a brick facade was added at a later date.  Here is an example of two houses which according to the Ontario Architectural Conservancy were built by the same builder. One had a brick facade added and the other remains clapboard but which one would be considered correct? 

Which style of window is correct? The new six over six double sash windows or the simple sash windows on the clapboard house?  A house owner in the designated Metcalfe Street area was forced by the city to remove and replace similar newly installed six over six windows that City Heritage Staff objected to.

Another example of diverse facade and window styles. Two of the row are stucco,  two of the row cleaned original brick and two of the row painted.  Under HCD the orange and vanilla brick on the center two homes is the correct choice.  There would be a huge differential in cost to the homeowner and only the more expensive cleaning repointing and replacement of brick with reclaimed brick would be considered the acceptable renovation under HCD Designation. 

In many respects the colourful examples seen here is the quintessential Cabbagetown Row houses with tidy front lawns, colourful and varied facades, windows and is reminiscent of depictions of early streetscapes by painters like the Group of Seven or Albert Francks.  

This house is an example of a house that recently had aluminum siding removed from the facade of the house and the existing brick work either replaced or cleaned and repointed.  Most would agree that the homeowner did a good job in recreating the original look of the house.  The energy efficient and functional windows would not be acceptable under proposed Heritage Conservation District regulations. 

We ask that regulations in the Heritage Conservation District Plan be limited to respect the rights of property owners while endeavoring to protect the general look and feel of the neighborhood's historical and architectural details.  The proposed  process of designation is overly heavy handed in dictating what is acceptable to a narrow view.  Most property owners in the area understand that we are an historical neighbourhood and respect the need to keep new renovations to a level in keeping with the neighbourhood.  

Our City Planners have been extremely helpful in working the current safeguards in the planning/building permit process, guiding proposed renovations to a cohesive and harmonious outcome.  We have very few examples of  homeowners moving forward with renovations or additions so inappropriate that the historical streetscape is  permanently or irrefutably damaged.  The existing and more manageable City's Official Plan sets out standards that protect neighbourhoods while encouraging development and housing options on our main thoroughfares.

Although we would support a more rigorous safeguards around the demolition of properties on our residential sidestreets, area homeowners have done a good job of maintaining and improving their homes in the area without severe controls and regulations thrust upon them.  The plan and regulations proposed seem punitive and overly controlling and needs to be more reasonable in approach.      

We propose a 5 step process.

1. Continue with a Master Plan planning process for the neighbourhood.

2. Work with the Cabbagetown Preservation Association to develop a Heritage Conservation District Plan that will meet the needs of our community.

3.  Engage all residents in planning and approval process regarding any changes to bylaws which affect their ability to maintain and upgrade or renovate their properties.

4.  Remove commercial areas from the proposed Residential District Plan.

5. Support those property owners who wish to seek Individual Heritage Designation

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