Burnie says designation “a violation of the constitution”



The owner of Sunnyside Manor says he’s likely to appeal any move to have the house designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.

And David Burnie says the Town of Petrolia’s process to approve his minor variance has been “a violation of the constitution.”

Burnie was in council chambers Monday as councillors examined three options for the property widely known as Fairbank House. Burnie wants to build a 16-unit apartment building on the property. However there is widespread opposition to the move.

The application to allow two buildings on one property was approved, however it is now being appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board.

So March 1, Burnie gave the town three options, he says to “try to come up with a solution.”

Burnie suggested he would continue with the renovations on the house and put an addition on the home – leaving one building on the property and “given the family’s past commitment to the home, a clear statement of trust in rebuilding the house without restoration.”

Burnie also suggested the lot be severed to allow the apartment building to go up.

He also offered to sell the property to the town for over $5 million.

After less than a 10 minute discussion, town council agreed the best of the options would be to allow an addition on the current building.

But Councillors Liz Welsh and Ross O’Hara made it clear the move to declare the building historic under the Ontario Heritage Act would continue.

At the end of meeting, when the public had a chance to speak to council, Burnie went to the podium and unleashed on council saying he is opposed to anyone’s property being designated against their will adding “The whole process is a violation of the constitution… It guarantees the life, liberty and security of a person… the right not to be deprived of fundamental justice… and the state of being exempt from domination of another – the heritage designation is the domination of others,” says Burnie likening the process to Bolshevik times.

He says the public notion that the house would disappear under his watch is “nonsense.” He says Charles O. Fairbank told his father, while he stood by, that he would have torn the building down if he couldn’t find a buyer.

“The actions of the Burnie family has kept this home on the property… and an apartment building on the site would not jeopardize the house at all.

“Over the past 50 years, everything has not gone like a fairy tale but it is standing because of one group and one group only. I’m just asking for a little grace and humanity.”

Councillor Grant Purdy countered; “I saw the smirks on your face and the disdain for this process… your sincerity and your word are very hard to accept.”

After the meeting, Burnie told The Independent the legal wranglings have likely pushed the project back two years. He has yet to decide if he will defend his position at the OMB or move ahead with the restoration of the home. But he added it was “likely” he would appeal the heritage designation if it moves forward.


  1. I know this is a very beautiful building, and I am sure it was more beautiful in its day. I would love to see it restored.
    The house belongs to Mr. Burnie and I think it is not fair for someone to dictate what he does with his house and property. Petrolia really needs more apartments and I am excited for this new development to take place.
    I don’t know Mr. Burnie personally, but I do think it is his property and the town would probably get more co-operation if they work with Mr. Burnie . I know I would be upset if people were making money decisions for me. No one likes to be pushed around and bullied. All that being said, I do appreciate the beauty of Petrolia and always have. I am a true “Hard Oiler”.
    That building has always been part of Petrolia’s charm and beauty.

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