Monday, June 29, 2009

Barrie city council wades into ARC outcome

The Examiner posted this story Monday about an agenda item at tonight's Barrie city council meeting. As blogged previously, a city councillor there believes the Simcoe County District School Board's decision to close the downtown Prince of Wales school after an accommodation review is a mistake, given the Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth Plan.
Council is set to consider designating the school property as a heritage property in its municipal listing, one of the steps towards official designation provincially under the Ontario Heritage Act.
"If a demolition permit is applied for, we will get the information right away," Coun. Andrew Prince, chairman of Heritage Barrie, said of the register. "It will raise a flag."
But Holly Spacek, senior planner for the Simcoe County District School Board, will make a deputation to council tonight opposing the addition of the school to the municipal register.
In a June 18 letter to the city, Spacek said the board also opposes designating the former King Edward school on Bradford Street -- closed a year ago -- as a heritage building.
Both school buildings are more than a century old.
"The school board would oppose such a designation on the grounds that neither school contributes to cultural heritage value," Spacek said in her letter.
There are other downtown Barrie heritage properties mentioned in the article that may be listed as well as part of this council decision. However, given previous comments, council is wading into a tricky issue that will only deepen any rift with the school board. Consider the following:
  • The board's students deserve a modern learning environment that likely cannot be adequately or efficiently provided at a reasonable cost at Prince of Wales.
  • Designation would make it harder to sell the building, unless the school board lucks out and finds a developer willing to take on the cost of renovating an old school into lofts or something similar. Those are harder to find in this economic climate.
  • The longer the property remains on the school board's books the more money is wasted.
  • What's better? New development at the property or a derelict lot once the school closes?
If the intention on the designation is to change the board's plans to close the school, that outcome is unlikely. If council is in a designating mood, it should cough up the dough to support that intention. Regulation without compensation rarely produces the intended outcome.
There are other options here-- through site plan control and other planning matters, council could still preserve the heritage of the building, regardless of who owns it and what ultimately happens at the property.