Council Divided on Demolition of 93 Albert

At the Committee of the Whole (CoW) Council meeting on December 6, Council were asked to support a Cobourg Heritage Advisory Committee (CHAC) recommendation to deny permission to approve demolition of the building at 93 Albert Street (see report in Links below).  But before a vote was taken, Councillor Darling moved to refer the decision to the CoW meeting on January 3 so that there would be more time to study the issue.  At that meeting (Monday night), the Chair of the CHAC (Graham Andrews) and Vice Chair (Ken Bagshaw) spoke out strongly as to why they wanted to deny permission contrary to a Staff recommendation and then Council debated if they should accept the recommendation of Heritage /Planning Staff or the CHAC.  Rob Franklin, Acting Director, made it clear that he continued to support his recommendation to allow demolition.

93 Albert
93 Albert

According to Ken Bagshaw, the  reports by the consultants (hired by the owner as required) recognized the Heritage value but nevertheless supported demolition although nowhere did any reports say the building was in imminent danger of collapse.  Further, the consultants did not seem to be independent but were advocating for the owner.  Ken and Graham said that granting a demolition permit would be a bad precedent and send a message that owners would expect to get easy approval to demolish Heritage properties.

Councillor Brian Darling asked if any of the committee had visited the property and the answer was “No”.  They relied on the reports.  (Several Councillors including Brian did visit). Brian has had personal experience with this kind of thing and felt that it was not a good idea to try to restore the building.  He said that all of the consultants agreed that the building was in very poor condition.

Although Brian did not think that the owner would spend the required money to repair the extensive damage, Councillor Emily Chorley said that “we are not here to discuss financial considerations”.  She said that the owner admitted that restoration would be possible so it was simply a money issue.  Basically, any structure can be repaired – but it may be expensive.  She said that Council should demonstrate a commitment and that demolition by neglect will not be tolerated.  However, she also said that the Town should be more pro-active.

In a recorded vote, Council voted to deny permission to demolish – they agreed with the CHAC and over-ruled staff.  The vote was:

Deny Demolition – 4 votes: Mayor John Henderson, Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin, Councillor Nicole Beatty, Councillor Emily Chorley
Approve Demolition – 3 votes: Brian Darling, Adam Bureau, Aaron Burchat.

This vote will have to be ratified at next Monday’s regular Council Meeting but I’d be surprised if anyone changed their mind.

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Frenchy
10 January 2022 9:49 pm

Sometimes an old building is just an old building.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Frenchy
10 January 2022 11:20 pm

Wow! the sheer simplicity! And sense.

Stewey
8 January 2022 5:24 pm

If one reads all of the reports in the Appendices of the staff report on the council agenda, you would find that the owner submitted numerous heritage analyses prepared by 2 certified heritage professionals (Martindale/BBA), one of whom is also an engineer, along with a separate structural engineer’s report, which were ‘peer reviewed’ by the town’s certified heritage professionals (Letourneau), and all of these professionals concluded, in short, that the building should be demolished and a new building erected that fits into the character of the street. I am certainly in favour of preserving buildings that have demonstrated cultural value but that does not mean everything that qualifies as old should be, particularly when heritage professionals on both sides of the equation agree.

MiriamM
Reply to  Stewey
8 January 2022 10:40 pm

Stewey writes “all of these professionals concluded, in short, that the building should be demolished and a new building erected that fits into the character of the street”.

Where you getting that information? Am I misreading your point? The peer review Letourneau report in fact is clear about the shortfalls and missing information of the CHIA report in particular. There is a detailed list.

Stewey
Reply to  MiriamM
10 January 2022 8:08 pm

A chronology is below based on my reading of the long list of reports that are readily available through John’s link above: The owner’s heritage analysis (CHIA) of September of 2020 was submitted by Martindale/BBA. The initial Peer Review of the CHIA by Letourneau (May, 2021) identified a number of items (a “detailed list”) that required further review by the owner’s consultants. Not unusual for a peer review in any profession. A revised CHIA was submitted by the owner’s consultants in July of 2021. Letourneau’s Update to Peer Review (September, 2021) concluded that “The revised CHIA has generally addressed the recommendations from LHC’s Peer Review. It has not fully addressed the recommendation to address salvage and re-use of heritage attributes, however based on the condition of the building this appears to not be feasible. LHC finds that the revised CHIA is substantially complete and addresses concerns about the proposal to demolish a cultural heritage resource within the Commercial Core Heritage Conservation District.”. From a structural integrity viewpoint, the original and supplemental engineering building reports by Dobri Engineering were reviewed by a heritage engineer and architect (as denoted by the CAHP, OAA and MRAIC designations) at BBA who concluded “it appears the subject structure is substantially deteriorated and in poor condition. In addition, many of the heritage character defining attributes have been lost and/or altered.“. The Town’s staff report to Council (Nov., 2021) states that “the owner has provided sufficient justification through the preparation of an amended Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment (CHIA) for staff to recommend endorsement in principle of the demolition at 93 Albert St….Heritage and Planning staff has proposed a path forward that endorses the demolition request in principle, subject to the submission of building drawings, schematics and renderings and an updated CHIA which analyzes the proposed massing, height, scale,… Read more »

MiriamM
Reply to  Stewey
10 January 2022 9:19 pm

I appreciate the detailed follow-up. It is my understanding that the second Letourneau review did not have the following information, which appears still not yet available. From the staff report to Council dated November 3, 2021:
“Notably still missing is an independent report from an
Engineer in good standing with the Canadian Association of Heritage
Professionals, however, staff have been informed that one is being prepared.”

In any case, Council this evening in a recorded vote denied the permit to demolish the main building subject of the request. And apparently there is a later addition to the main building which may be subject of a separate request.

Stewey
Reply to  MiriamM
11 January 2022 10:37 pm

Glad to help. BTW, the additional engineering report letter is there in the package – prepared by a professional engineer who is also a certified heritage professional. But as you noted, it is moot since the demo permit was denied.

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Stewey
13 January 2022 10:30 pm

Stewey

There are two important issues regarding 93 Albert.

First, the owners including the present ones, who must have known what they were getting into, can be argued to be playing the game of “demolition by neglect” by which they anticipate that with time they will eventually force the Town to concent to demolition. This should never be allowed to happen regardless of age.

To restore order the Town needs enforceable minimum property standard bylaws that apply to all properties. Let 93 Albert be demolished and you will have established a precident that proves the rule.

Second, age is only one of many factors including engineering reports, that should be considered in preserving built-heritage. There is something called “vernacular architecture”, otherwise defined as “architecture without architects” examples of which can be found on the west side of Division north of James. Others are to what degree an enforceable plan to redevelop the site will contribute to satisfying existential present needs such as: more affordable housing; increased residential density in support of a well designed and affordable public transportation as an alternative to that of the private automobile; the reduced cost per dwelling of the delivery of essential municipal services.

Although the process we’re going through is messy and controversial, I believe Council has done the right thing.

Last edited 5 months ago by Keith Oliver
JimT
8 January 2022 1:31 pm

Just move it somewhere out of the way.

Maybe create a small village to collect similar structures over the years to come, similar to this one on Orr Street behind the Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre.

Last edited 5 months ago by JimT
Marie
4 January 2022 2:34 pm

It is interesting to witness various views. I read about suggested financial “punishment” and other punitive measures.
I read that Europe is held up as an example of maintaining history and heritage. Presumably these things are dear to the people who collectively enjoy the benefits of heritage buildings and facades

However in many countries in Europe they do take the stand: What benefits the public ought to be financially support by the public – and its purse (usually all levels of government participate).

I think the whole matter would be solved more amicably and equitably if all those who benefit (both the public and the owner) pay for them.

However, I know, that is just a dream and we will have many more of these ugly discussions on this side of the Atlantic…..

Gerinator
Reply to  Marie
4 January 2022 3:43 pm

Ok I’m not necessarily adverse to the premis that we all share – but does that mean we share in the resale $s (from the property) as well. Punitive maybe but I like to think of it as a ‘preemptive’ solution to everyone falling asleep on the known issue of ‘demo by neglect’. It just isn’t fair to the community at large to have these types of costly issues dumped in their laps.

MiriamM
4 January 2022 1:00 pm

I watched and listened to the Council discussion last evening. It was about civil dialogue and exploration of ideas including sharing of practical experience with older buildings. Not just the contribution of the councillor who has repaired and restored heritage buildings but also of those who have seen and experienced how older buildings in poor shape are brought back to useful life in other countries, like in Europe, where many places measure heritage buildings in centuries not decades like here in Canada. Check out average home listings in Britain to see what goes for how much, what an average house in an small urban setting, like a village or town, looks like on the outside. Often very plain and it strives to fit in. There is no valid reason this heritage house should be demolished. It is not prohibitive to repair. Spoken by a steward of a small heritage home, with a list of repair and restore projects for this lifetime and part of the next. And the lot is big enough for additional new development. Consider also that demolition is not cheap nor is landfill space. As a general observation, often, reports on a structure for which a demolition permit is sought focus on the physical aspects that are in the worst shape or needing repair or missing. Photos being the most effective way to justify approval for demolition. Meanwhile it is the cultural heritage aspects i.e. who built the house, who lived there, that are identified as the strength of the heritage value. The reports need to be better balanced to reflect the positive and valuable physical features, existing features but more importantly how damaged or missing features could be restored or replaced. Council is elected to lead. And to remind us all what is important to our… Read more »

Sandpiper
Reply to  MiriamM
6 January 2022 8:28 am

Thank God I no longer live in Europe !

Where Bylaw officers are out in full force .
Young people have had an interest in a communities past
let alone antique furniture . Not so much any more with our countries new ethnic diversity .
If maintenance Bylaws and standards where to be supported by this Town and Council and Enforced PROMPTLY
Then property owners would tow the line .
May be even conform to the neighbourhood uniformity Like cutting their grass

Gerinator
4 January 2022 12:50 pm

I would support the demo of the building ONLY when Council and Staff have their collective **** together regarding the treatment, protection and policy regarding all heritage properties. For instance, once again we have the prospect of ‘demolition by neglect’, many others out there I’m sure. The owners of these properties are well aware of the provenance of their properties and the attendant requirements to maintain these properties, as designed. The penalties for owner neglect are insufficient and lack ‘timely’ teeth. Every heritage property owner should receive a notice that their taxes (i.e. negative impact to their wallets) will increase exponentially, repeatedly. Continued financial pressure would ensure sooner rather than dragged out negotiations. Might also avoid the temptation by some to promote the notion that the Town (i.e. the citizens) should assume financial responsibilities for these properties (remember the Park Theatre discussions circa 2015-2016).

Beach walker
4 January 2022 11:42 am

I know which 4 have just lost my vote. Shame!

beach lover
4 January 2022 8:57 am

Thank you Mayor John Henderson, Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin, Councillor Nicole Beatty and Councillor Emily Chorley to help protect Cobourg’s historic properties in the downtown core from the wrecking ball.

Sandpiper
Reply to  beach lover
4 January 2022 9:17 am

The new owner is well known for building affordable quality Senior Housing
in this town . Why don’t we take a look at what he the developer has proposed before condemning a new project on such a large parcel of land running to the south & behind this OLD inefficient structure . May be the problem is just access to the lands at the rear that this building is blocking , that can be put to better use . After all Ms. Beatty is always talking about the need for more
housing. I think ?? It make no sense to block this project or any other when all the Town has left are small in fill projects in the Downtown core .

marya
Reply to  Sandpiper
4 January 2022 9:42 am

We could be wrong, but according to site diagrams, it is believed that the demolition of 93 Albert Street and at least one of the large trees on the south side are necessary for the access and the creation of garages for the proposed development onto the King George Inn (for which there have been signs on Third Street of some sorts for 18 years- early 2003) such as the garages that have been completed on “Mansions on George” and at the rear for the condos on King Street.

Sandpiper
Reply to  marya
4 January 2022 9:45 am

This is not King George property .

marya
Reply to  Sandpiper
4 January 2022 12:48 pm

Really?!

Sandpiper
Reply to  beach lover
4 January 2022 9:49 am

If Heritage properties in this Town are left like this and in less than eye appealing condition or uncontrolled social housing .
Then may be we should rethink Heritage !
Its certainly not OLD Niagara

Keith Oliver
Reply to  beach lover
4 January 2022 10:48 am

As much as I am in favour of preserving and repurposing Cobourgs’ built-heritage as an ever present reminder of Cobourgs’ unique and important history, there are cases where demolition is justified, especially if the satisfaction of a greater and more pressing need is the result.

If the result of the demolition of 93 Albert Street is to be more housing “affordable-to-all” in the downtown area, adding to the population base necessary to support more local businesses on King Street, the frequency and greater use of public transit, the more efficient per household delivery of municipal services … then I would agree with demolition. The test that approval by Council should meet is “does the benefit to the community-at-large exceed the loss?”

In the case of the loss of the Model School and Lidia Pinkham Pill Factory to the GMC vehicle dealership on University Street and Burnham House to the Ford dealership on Elgin, this was clearly not the case and Cobourg is the poorer for it. Compromises in both case were possible but needed strong encouragement from the Council of the day which instead sat on its’ hands and relied on existing regulations which only delayed the resulting tragidies by 6 months.

Up next is the challenge presented by the future of Sidbrook and Brookside where both are in a state of “demolition by neglect” and any kind of meaningful action has yet to be taken by Council.

CiW
4 January 2022 8:35 am

Does the town not have an engineer who can determine the condition of the building?

CiW
4 January 2022 8:29 am

What, exactly, needs to be repaired?

From personal experience, a demolition permit would only be issued if an engineer’s report indicated that the building was beyond repair.

If this is not the case, do the repairs and get on with it.

Lina Wash
Reply to  CiW
4 January 2022 12:00 pm

Owners had TWO engineer reports both recommending demolition. This isn’t about financials. There is no brick ledge to support the brick for underpinning footings. Property is zoned for up to 4 rental units. We live in a town that has bidding wars on rent and limited affordable housing. Many towns are facing a housing crisis. The logic used in the decision last night was not in favour of the “greater good for the community” but rather in pleasing old school mentalities on a heritage committee. Buildings should be persevered where it makes sense and upgraded/renewed when it makes sense. I doubt the expertise for structural integrity amongst the members of the the heritage committee is greater than two engineers and a respected and experienced local building developer. Otherwise, the town will fill with heritage buildings that stay neglected for decades and make the town look very unattractive to locals, tourists and neighbours. It’s too bad that beautiful historic Sidbrook building (different owners- not related to this project) had a second chance at life as a potential housing project, and is now going to rot due to inflexible committee mentalities. Nonetheless decision last night re Albert st., turned down an opportunity to provide four families/individuals housing near many accommodations in a beautiful area of town. Great walkability index – which is critical and hard to find for an aging demographic in Cobourg, many whom do not drive. Progressive mentalities help communities grow into the future. Old school mentalities will result in rotting eye sores across town. Finances do also matter. While it’s not the focus of the decision, the outcomes matter for any party involved. I’m guessing the heritage committee doesn’t offer funding to support lavish restoration decisions or projects….

ben
Reply to  Lina Wash
4 January 2022 5:11 pm

It’s too bad that beautiful historic Sidbrook building (different owners- not related to this project) had a second chance at life as a potential housing project, and is now going to rot due to inflexible committee mentalities.”

So the owners have no responsibility to the Sidbrook property and the rot is due to inflexible committee mentalities? – Really!

I was really interested in your pov until you wrote the above sentence. Kinda displayed a complete ignorance of the problem and gives a huge stench of disdain toward local government – which has no control over Sidbrook at the moment.

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Lina Wash
4 January 2022 7:51 pm

Lina

Final decision on future of 93 Albert Street will be decided at the next Regular meeting of Council. The vote Monday was to create the resolution to be subject to a final vote next Monday.

As far as reports by “experts” I’m sorry to say they are not always impartial to the interests of the owner. The 1870s cottage at the Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre was condemned by an engineer. A member of the Cobourg Museum Foundation with a construction background inspected the building and offered to give it a home at the Centre. The owner paid for the move and the building was brought up to public occupancy standards at a reasonable cost. Council with critical but constructive input from concerned citizens is where the final decision should be made.

Last edited 5 months ago by Keith Oliver
GailR
Reply to  Keith Oliver
4 January 2022 10:42 pm

One could go further. Owners of heritage properties that they wish to demolish will always find an ‘expert’ who can be relied upon to speak in the interest of the owner. That is why there should always be a peer review by an equally qualified expert. This should be part of any review of the demolition application by Town staff and the Heritage Committee.

Keith Oliver
Reply to  GailR
5 January 2022 9:49 pm

GailR

Peer review is better than the input from citizens that I recommended. But there needs to be something more. Differences between experts need to be explained if not resolved. Professionals are reluctant to challenge eachother. There is always a subjective side to what built-heritage structures or spaces have value and should be saved. If the dominant criteria is age alone, Toronto would still be a clutter of ramshackled wooden buildings on leaking stone foundations. Not the best example but you know what I mean..