Petrolia council to designate Fairbank House as historic under Ontario Heritage Act

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Petrolia council wants Fairbank House named a historic site under the Ontario Heritage Act.

And they want a Heritage Impact Assessment done before any development is done on the site.

The recommendation came from the Heritage Advisory Committee and was unanimously approved by council at Monday’s meeting.

The move comes as the owner of the property works to build a 16-unit apartment building on the grounds of the mansion. Historians have expressed concerns about the move and over 2,000 people have signed a petition saying the apartment building shouldn’t be allowed.

Mayor John McCharles says council has heard the community’s concerns.

“People in the community and the community surrounding us have voiced an opinion that they want to see the Fairbank Mansion… saved,” says McCharles.

“They’re worried if there is a new development there, the mansion will take second place. We’re there to represent the public.”

“We’re speaking for the public; they want some sort of a maintenance plan and want to make sure the mansion is kept and improved.”

The owner of the property, David Burnie, in a recent meeting with council said he didn’t want the building deemed historic fearing it would add costs to any renovations and limit what he could do with the property.

“We decide to have our own personal property in our control,” he said.

When contacted by The Independent, Burnie’s representative for the project, Geoff Dale of Robert E Dale Consulting Engineers, had little to say. “Mr. Burnie spoke against the heritage designation at council… I don’t believe that’s changed.”

At the time of the hearing Dale said. “If you designate something as a heritage building, you can take that cost and expand on it exponentially.”

McCharles says while designation under the Ontario Heritage Act does offer protection of the building, it is not as restrictive as some people think. McCharles says renovations and additions can be completed but they have to maintain the historic nature of the home.

And the mayor adds while he values landowner’s property rights, protecting heritage buildings is important.

“When there is historic value, you are responsible to others to maintain that historic value.”

The town will notify the public it is considering the historic designation.

Anyone against the move can file an objection 30 days after council posts its intention to designate the property. Then there will be a hearing.

Dale says Burnie will consider all his options under the Ontario Heritage Act

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