Sackville town councillors voted Monday night to repeal the town’s heritage bylaw and dissolve the Heritage Board leaving property owners free to demolish or alter the look of downtown buildings in previously designated heritage conservation areas without having to apply for a permit.
“This is an issue that has been, well, I’ve agonized over it for a long time,” said Councillor Bill Evans in a nine-minute statement explaining why he would be voting in favour of scrapping the bylaw.
Evans added that the town adopted the heritage conservation bylaw in 2010 without a clear idea of what it intended to preserve or how far it should go in interfering with the rights of property owners. He said that over the years, two groups emerged with strong opinions — one urging that the bylaw be strengthened and the other arguing that it places an unfair burden on certain property owners.
“It became a hugely contentious issue on which there is little agreement except for one aspect — almost everyone I’ve heard from agrees that what we currently have is not working,” Evans said.
He also referred to the bitter and costly fight over demolition of the former Sackville United Church that he said exposed weaknesses in the bylaw itself as well as the town’s unfamiliarity with the functioning of an independent Heritage Board.
“If the bylaw is repealed, I expect that the streetscape of Sackville will continue to evolve as it has for 150 years and, while not everyone will like everything, Sackville will continue to be the vibrant, attractive town that we call home,” Evans concluded.
To read the full text of Evans’s statement, click here.
Mitton voices concerns
Although she said she would be voting for repeal, Councillor Megan Mitton expressed concern that there would be nothing to replace the bylaw.
“I do wish we could have found a way to change it and address many of the concerns raised,” she added. (Last month, council held an often-emotional, hour-long public hearing with many participants expressing strong views for and against repealing the bylaw.)
Mitton said she understands that town staff will work on drafting new criteria for grants that would help property owners repair and restore their heritage buildings.
To read the text of Mitton’s statement, click here.
Tower weighs in
Michael Tower was the only other councillor to speak before the vote to repeal the bylaw. He suggested that the Heritage Board had imposed unfair, ridiculous and costly conditions on owners seeking to improve their properties leading to a groundswell of opposition against it.
“I was against the whole thing back when I heard from David Jones and they made him put a garage on the side of his house and not facing the front,” Tower recalled.
“So, when I inquired about why they’d be so ridiculous — he built a beautiful house — why that? ‘Well, it’s the only house that we have a garage on the front facing the road. They didn’t do that way back when so why would we allow it now?'” Tower said, adding that complying with the garage requirements cost Jones “a heck of a lot of money.”
To read the text of Tower’s statement, click here.
The vote to repeal the bylaw was seven in favour with none against. Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken, who is co-owner of the heritage building that houses Tidewater Books, left the council chamber and did not vote or participate in the discussions about repealing the bylaw.
Councillor Evans referred to “the bitter and costly fight over demolition of the former Sackville United Church that he said exposed weaknesses in the bylaw itself as well as the town’s unfamiliarity with the functioning of an independent Heritage Board”.
I do not think that the saga of the destroyed old white beautiful church has exposed *weaknesses* in the bylaw. To me, it has exposed political unaccountability for cheating over false permits in addition to the incredible waste of public funds, as Councillor Evans said. He forgot to precise that all this money was likely spent to silence citizens who dared to open their mouth to denounce unorthodox behaviour (by those who are supposed to represent us).
If our politicians cannot remember (recent) history, let’s not be surprised when we will see history being repeated one day…
Thus, as a friendly reminder, in a comment about an article in the New Wark Times (2017, Nov 15) entitled: “Supreme Court releases Lordon report; town lawyer says it’s not confidential”, I wrote the following: “…Thus, according to me, for the sake of HEALING AND PERHAPS REPAIR, the Town of Sackville owes Louis Béliveau PUBLIC APOLOGIES for its “misconduct”…. It is not only Louis Béliveau who deserves apologies but also ALL the Heritage board members for their devoted time AND courage in pointing to problems in order to try to fix them”.
Although no public apologies were made, I take this decision of today as a form of efforts toward more public transparency (a silent form of apologies?). I thank Councillor Evans for justifying his vote, as he did.
To conclude on an amusing note, I would like to cite Louis’ own words in a comment to an earlier article on the heritage bylaw about to be scrapped (2018, May 21): “This is progress in the fight against hypocrisy and double-speak. Clearly, the emperor has no clothes. Remains the question of whether the denizens are blind”.
Luckily for the emperor, it is too hot and humid today… it may be comfortable to be naked 😊.
Many would agree, I am sure, that what should be scrapped are the councillors who, as they are exemplifying, haven’t the ability to fix something properly but would rather just rid of it. Imagine if our legal system did the same thing…
In a word “uneducated”.
Missing from Bill Evans’ statement last night was any mention of the fact that the 2010 Heritage bylaw replaced an earlier version from 2001, so the concept of heritage protection was not quite as “NEW” as the 2010 date might imply.
We heard from Heritage Officer Jamie Burke that revisions to the bylaw in 2016 were deliberately intended to make it weaker, which of course would render it even less effective than it had previously been . One should question whether that was done with the intention of setting it up for failure, in order to provide an excuse to scrap it just two years later.
We also learned last night that the Lafford brothers current construction site (WHICH IS SITUATED IN A HERITAGE AREA) has had no building permits issued yet (as of last night), and it was revealed that they were waiting for the decision on whether the Heritage Board and Bylaw would be abolished before they obtain their permits. Meanwhile the early phases of construction are well underway.
That came as a complete surprise to the citizens in attendance, and it was unclear to us whether the Councillors had any previous knowledge of those facts.
This startling revelation brings to mind another uncomfortable question, in relation to the timing of this motion to abolish the only form of Heritage protection which the town HAD in place.
And now, with no foreseeable time-frame for drafting a replacement, we are left with absolutely NO CURRENT PROTECTION for anything related to the Heritage of our town.
The idea of totally getting rid of something, rather than amending whatever parts are not working, and especially with nothing ready to take its place, rings SO MANY ALARM BELLS that it’s deafening.
Sadly this is not the first time in Sackville ..history repeats itself in Sackville too fast …unfortunately a weak and confusing bylaw cannot protect heritage buildings either … That bylaw was just a funny decoration with no intention to be implemented even at that low level … Now this is the reality: Sackville will be as nice and and attractive as the Lafford brothers wish to make it. It is now too late for this community, the problem started when we started to lose major historic buildings in Sackville..those who cared did not get enough support from the rest of community …so these and what comes next are all inevitable …
I sadly totally agree with you Azi on the lack of support from the community. This phenomenon has a name. It is called apathy.
People seemed to care more for global or larger issues/movements more than local concrete ones.
Two weeks ago, we had the chance to visit Bouctouche. I visited the church downtown and took a picture of their large fundraising’s logo and money raised outside of the cathedral. What a beautiful community that knows how to save its heritage. I say the same about its cemetery that we visited for maybe the third time. For fun, on the way to the beach, we stopped and chatted with a few local men. Adorable guys! They agreed that I tape them (our conversation) to capture their beautiful accent in order to share with my sister abroad (different French and fascinating Chiac) . One of them happens to know Sackville well. We talked about how sad it was to lose the historic old white beautiful church downtown… I congratulated them for their community’s cohesiveness (coming together like that to save their church).
As I always thought from Day 1 of the heritage saga (and shared with Louis), if the parishioners themselves do not care much about the historic monument, this will be a hopeless case….It has to come from people’s «united» hearts.
Well, I can think of only two things to say. First, I’m glad none of this lot have any say over the provincial Community Planning Act — that’s the law that provides for land use planning and zoning, that most basic control over how property is used. Under the logic we’re hearing, that property rights are more or less absolute, it would be hard to argue that there should be residential-only neighbourhoods. Why shouldn’t a business of any type be able to open on West Avenue, or Estabrooks Street? This Council makes the average provincial MLA look good.
Second, I thought Sackville had the potential to be a St. Andrews or a Lunenburg. Guess not. Have any councillors ever been to either of these places? Wouldn’t they like the visitor traffic that they have in those towns (let alone Camden, Maine)? Where are Sackville businesses on this issue? What is the council’s vision for Sackville and how does repealing this by-law serve it? Another banner day for the “drive-through province….”
“Don’t fix it, scrap it!”
Not exactly what you’d expect from a bunch of “green” “environmentalists” and other self-important gasbags.
That being said, for once I agree with them. It’s just that the logic needs to continue beyond buildings and heritage boards and apply to Council itself – the majority of them, anyway.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one “keeper” on this Council and the rest should go the way of the Heritage Bylaw. I think that everyone knows very well whom I’d like to keep from this lot.
Some fun slogans:
Green Sackville: Discard After First Use
Sackville NB: Worse Before May 2020
Sackville Vision 2020: Stop Recycling!
Hindsight 2020: 4 years of destruction
With all the hot air that comes out of there, we should presumably have our “green energy” source by now.
What a tragic-comic, odd reality…I did a quick search to check if anything similar has taken place across the country, including Quebec (small towns or cities?). To the best of my knowledge (if I did not miss any evidence), there is no precedent. All I was able to find was cases of repealing by-law ONLY for SPECIFIC cases or spots, not the whole by-law (e.g. town of Oakville, ON, in 2007 or other places in NB and NS).
Of note, when I extended my search beyond Canada, I discovered an interesting bylaw in France called “Zone de protection du patrimoine architectural, urbain et paysager (ZPPAUP; Article 70 de la loi n° 93-24 du 8 janvier 1993)”. Despite its socio-economic issues (of course in addition to its talent in soccer :)), France is a beautiful country that keeps on honouring aesthetics, history, and landscapes. Indeed, if I get it right, “landscape” was legally integrated to this French heritage bylaw (originally from 1983) to allow municipal districts to protect monuments as well as beautiful landscapes.
Why can’t we learn something from France’s ZPPAUP bylaw and its application to villages and small towns? Yes, our countries are different, but their experience can perhaps teach us some wisdom? After all, France is not geographically as far as we may think (Saint Pierre and Miquelon islands are nearby!).
Anyhow, regardless of this particular example, why can’t we find a reasonable balance between the need for new projects and the will to protect shared heritage/landscape in a small yet superb town like Sackville? Why does it have to be that complicated?
If you have time watch this episode of Begin Japanology about Tokyo station. This is what a community needs, to be able to keep the history and charm. Such mentality does not exist in Sackville (most not all of course). Those who wish to “move on” instead of fixing and dealing with challenges make a big majority. Hence, what the whole community experiences.
I took the time to watch your video Azi. Thanks for sharing. How inspiring it is to see respect for the roots/history along with the visionary wings toward to the future.