Kitchener councillors will now decide if regional government will be allowed to bulldoze two Queen Street houses near Joseph Schneider Haus.
They will do so after the city’s heritage committee voted 6-2 yesterday to reject a proposal by their own heritage and planning staff to save the houses.
Two of the three Kitchener councillors who sit on the city’s heritage committee — Paul Singh and Bil Ioannidis — voted to scrap their own staff recommendation. Ioannidis also chaired the meeting where the current committee chair, vice chair and several committee members were absent.
The boarded-up, 90-year-old houses the Region want to demolish are located at the bottom of Schneider Avenue and form part of the supposedly protected Victoria Park heritage conservation district.
The Region has owned the houses for 28 years but has done nothing to add them to the Schneider Haus property. The Region also did nothing when it had the opportunity to exempt the houses from the neighbourhood heritage district created in the mid-1990s.
In my opinion, if the Region now succeeds at demolishing the houses, it will set what Kitchener heritage officials describe as “a dangerous precedent” in what represents one of the city’s most beautiful communities
That precedent could involve any developer who buys one or more homes in the Victoria Park neighbourhood and announces he or she wants to flatten the properties and build something else. The developer could then point to the Region’s demolitions and use them as justification for circumventing city heritage regulations.
At a time when the Region has at least 10,000 seniors, adults and children on a waiting list for affordable housing, the emergency-housing provider argues the two homes are unsuitable for low-cost shelter.
They claim the houses cost too much to maintain to which I argue the region should sell or rent the properties. They would be worth about $1million if sold and that cash could, among other things, be used to upgrade Schneider Haus.
If you want to comment on the issue I would strongly suggest you register to speak and attend the Oct. 16 council meeting.
I will vote in support our excellent staff report but, considering the obvious politics at work and the fact Mayor Berry Vrbanovic also supports the Region’s proposal, I predict the two homes — big enough to house several large families — will be flattened.