It occurred to me that I totally failed to provide a Council Report for our special meeting on May 14th. This was a special meeting we scheduled during the day to provide more time for Council to workshop the potential Heritage Conservation Area incentives for Queens Park. We had a very long meeting on May 7, and decided than that this topic could not be given a proper vetting at 11:00 at night after a long meeting, so we deferred for a week. Then scope creep started and staff added one more item to the agenda, which we moved on Consent:
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure: Outstanding Referral for Street Closure Bylaw No. 7935, 2017
As with an earlier discussion on the May 7th meeting, this is a Street Closure Bylaw that staff has discovered was not administered properly back in 2017 when it comes to consultation with the Ministry of Transportation. So we are rolling it back to permit MoTI to do their thing, in anticipation that we can re-adopt after then give us the thumbs-up.
We then had a good discussion for the main event of the meeting:
Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area Incentive Program: Proposed Implementation Framework
The Heritage Conservation Area measures in Queens Park are an ongoing initiative. Addressing the imminent threat of demolitions of important heritage assets related to land value increases, the City acted as quickly as it could within the limits of the local Government Act to bring in measures that allow us to pause those demolitions, and then spent a year determining how to make those protections more permanent.
As far as heritage preservation measures, creating legislation to curtail demolitions is definitely at the “stick” end of the public policy spectrum. From the start, the City has been committed to also introducing measures that provide the “carrots” that will incentivize better heritage protection, and have been undergoing extensive public and stakeholder consultations, along with legal and economic reviews, to see what works best to provide those incentives.
This report both provided a tonne of information on those consultations and studies, and also outlines some proposed policy and programs to provide meaningful and useful incentives. The discussion around the Council table was engaging and really productive (and I highly encourage those interested to watch the Video and see how consensus-building works when you have a collaborative team that often disagrees on points of policy, but want to achieve a common goal). Through the discussion, we reviewed a suite of 16 potential incentives, some we have asked staff to draft into a Bylaw immediately, others we have asked them to do more work to develop, a few we asked them to introduce City-wide, and some we agreed to not pursue.
As the Bylaws that support these incentive programs will be going to a Public Hearing, I don’t want to dive too deep into their relative merits or weaknesses (perhaps we can save that discussion until after the Public Hearing), but I do want to outline what were the principles I took into the discussion and tried to rely on to inform my decisions:
• These incentives are meant to make it easier and more attractive for people to invest in an preserve homes that are of high heritage value in what is a unique neighbourhood in that I has the highest concentration of pre-WW2 homes of any similarly-sized neighbourhood in BC.
• These incentives should encourage heritage conservation while also supporting other City policies, such as tree protection and providing more housing diversity.
• These incentives should not unfairly burden homeowners in other neighbourhoods by asking those residents of Queensborough or Sapperton to pay extraordinary costs to support the housing costs of Queens Park residents.
An important part of the discussion was the results of the public consultation. As there were 16 different incentive areas explored, the public opinion varied:
In the end, the incentives we move forward with will be going through an implementation period, and we will have more chance to talk about them at that time.
And that was all for our relatively short mid-day meeting, apologies for not reporting out sooner.