Democracy flattened during the Mayfair demolition derby


One last kick at the Mayfair issue — a gentle one because I’m told the shabby old building might collapse on my foot.
This dismayed downtown councillor is absolutely gobsmacked that, a few hours before a majority of councillors eliminated all efforts to reconsider the subject, the city’s director of building expanded his demolition recommendation to include the neighbouring heritage structure at 156-158 King.
The oh-so-convenient move to ram the expanded and extremely questionable issue through council denied members of the public who care about inner-city heritage buildings any chance of commenting on the expanding demolition proposal.
So much for local democracy. And so much for the improved communication and transparency promised by the mayor and councillors as they begged for your votes at election time.
A few hours before Monday’s lengthy council session, the same matter was rushed through a special (token) meeting of the city’s Heritage Committee that members of the public also knew little about.
Heritage committee members recommended council take no action to remove the intent to designate 156-158 King and urged that a heritage-restoration expert be hired to suggest ways to save, not flatten, the threatened buildings.
Without requesting comments from Kitchener’s co-ordinator of heritage planning (no time for such awkward, unnecessary details), those recommendations were rapidly dismissed by a majority of councillors including Mayor Berry Vrbanovic.
So much for a new-era of mayoralty leadership. So much for any degree of respect offered heritage staff and a volunteer committee formed to advise council on heritage matters.
The mayor and six councillors also defeated an attempt I made to secure the site and defer the issue for two weeks so that a heritage expert could examine engineering reports and suggest ways to save the buildings.
Councillors and taxpayer delegates with engineering and architectural expertise who argued passionately to save the heritage buildings were subjected to repetitive lectures from their non-elected building director who insisted the sky was falling and the buildings could collapse at any moment.
No doubt those safety concerns didn’t apply to the cars parked at the rear of the Mayfair as he spoke to the heritage committee. No doubt that’s why I was able to walk among those cars and along King in front of the Mayfair (now finally fenced) as he sounded the safety alarms.
And no doubt that’s why heavy cement trucks have been rumbling in and out of the high-rise development being constructed immediately behind the Mayfair despite his warnings that the slightest vibration could bring down the former hotel.
Because safety was involved, he told council that if his demolition recommendations were rejected, he would have to take court action against his employer, the city.

Read it and weep.

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