Dave Hext says there may be a need for another apartment building in Petrolia but it shouldn’t be next to Sunnyside.
The home, also known as Fairbank House, is owned by David Burnie who wants to build a 16-unit apartment building right beside the iconic home. Burnie’s plan was slated to be heard by the Committee of Adjustment Wednesday. The committee put off his request saying it needed to see a detailed plan of how Fairbank House would be refurbished before it made its decision. (See more on the decision in the Dec. 15th edition of The Independent.) Hext, who is active in preserving Petrolia’s history, will also be there, armed with a petition opposing the development.
Hext isn’t opposed to Burnie putting up a nice building to make money but he fears putting it on the former Fairbank property could spell an end to the landmark.
“If you talk to anyone in North America who knows Petrolia and Fairbank House is one of the most familiar houses to them,” he says.
“If you put a complex up on the land, how do you get the equipment in there to fix up Fairbank House?” If that were to happen, Hext is worried the home will deteriorate further and then be torn down.
“If you take away a big landmark on our main street, you take away our identity,” says Hext.
Hext and several other history buffs are hoping Petrolia Council will understand their concerns and listen to some creative solutions.
Hext thought instead of just complaining after the fact, he would bring suggestions to council. He suggests the new apartment complex, which he says looks like a pretty nice building, might fit well into Petrolia’s proposed Rural Health Care Hub around Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital. The concept – which is to be discussed at council Monday – including housing for seniors.
Hext says the town owns land in the area and could perhaps work cooperatively with Burnie to relocate the apartment to that area instead. Hext says the Fairbank property is in an industrial area and the smells coming from nearby plant might not be conducive to finding renters.
“They could build it in a part of town that would be more advantageous to rent and where, if it was successful, it could expand,” he says.
Then Hext believes there might be opportunity for someone who is interested in preserving history to step forward and refurbish Fairbank House. “No one has ever asked what it would cost to totally refurbish it or what advantages there might be of retrofitting it for another use.
“Maybe we thought about doing something (to improve the property) but now we have to do something.”