Burnie will have to have a plan to fix Fairbank House before apartment building will be considered



The owner of an iconic Petrolia home will have to come up with a firm plan to fix the mansion.

That from Petrolia’s Committee of Adjustment.

David Burnie wants to build a 16-unit apartment building on the grounds of Sunnyside — commonly known as Fairbank House. The town’s bylaws don’t allow two major dwellings on one site, so Burnie needs permission to proceed.

The request has sparked concern from local historians and residents who worry a new building would detract from the home built by J.H. Fairbank — the founder of Imperial Oil — and possibly restrict it from any use in the future.

Normally, there are very few people at the committee of adjustment meeting, but council chambers was full for Burnie’s hearing.

Planner Rob Nesbitt says the land is already zoned for the apartments so it is possible but the building would be too close to Fairbank House. The buildings should be about 38 feet apart, Burnie’s plan shows just 19 feet.

But Nesbitt is more concerned about whether Burnie plans to actually use Fairbank House — which Nesbitt says is currently vacant. “The owner has to be upfront about the future use of Fairbank House — if it is known.

Burnie wasn’t at the hearing but his architect, Jeff Dale, says Burnie has a plan,but it hasn’t been written down.

Dale insists that even though the home has been allowed to deteriorate, Burnie is sincere in trying to improve what many see as one of Petrolia’s most significant buildings. “We are here today because the intent is to have two buildings — two functioning buildings — on that site,” he says. “Was that not a desire to maintain the existing home, we would not be here today.”

Still, residents objected, including Henry Industries, located behind the site. A letter from the company says officials have “severe concerns” about apartments near an industrial site.

But it was the fate of Fairbank House that worried the committee. “We have to be especially sensitive about Fairbank House, however this goes forward…its prominence has to be the highlight. We need to be convinced Fairbank House has the status on that lot,” says Nesbitt.

The committee told Dale his client would have to come with a concrete plan to refurbish the home before it would consider apartment plan.


  1. This beautiful heritage home is one of the backbones of Petrolia. I was saddened initially when it was converted to apartments, seeing the intricate woodwork butchered and painted was terrible. Back in the day where it have been advantageous to maintain it’s beauty, the town should have taken it to the people for help to preserve this outstanding heritage significance.

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