When it comes to the issue of historic buildings and heritage districts, Kitchener has for years had a dubious record for eating its old.
And, after my first four-year term during which I was council’s only representative on the city’s heritage committee, I start to see why the city has such a disappointing heritage history.
On council, we currently have a group of elected officials who, favouring property rights, care little about historic values. Because of that, they find ways to undermine efforts to list, designate or protect our few remaining heritage buildings and neighbourhoods.
The same councillors who pay lip service to protecting established neighbourhoods are currently preparing to chew away at the Upper Doon heritage community by approving two monster mansions proposed for that beautiful rural area. I’m concerned the approval will take place despite the fact the city’s own heritage advisory committee unanimously rejected the proposal which was approved by heritage staff.
In my opinion, the proposal to demolish two existing houses on adjacent lots and construct the 4,700-square-foot homes each with four-car garages not only threatens the character of Upper Doon but has the potential to weaken the purpose of Kitchener’s entire program of heritage neighbourhoods.
At a recent council meeting, the issue was deferred until Dec. 15 following a 5-5 tie vote (Coun. Zyg Janecki’s car broke down in Georgia) and our new council is required under Ontario law to make a decision by Jan. 17.
While I agree with the move to demolish two poorly maintained houses on the site, I’m convinced developers should build smaller homes more compatible with surrounding heritage buildings where the average size is about 1,700 square feet.
In light of the council split, it will be interesting to see how our new councillors, Sarah Marsh and Dave Schnider, vote.