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Group hopes intervention will change dial from demolition to repurposing historic Sandbanks houses

The Hyatt and MacDonald houses in February.

UPDATE: A letter from the mayor has been authorized.

Councillors Ernie Margetson and John Hirsch are seeking support of peers at Tuesday night’s council meeting to authorize the mayor to send a letter requesting the Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks choose innovation options to preserve, and not demolish, the historic Hyatt and MacDonald houses at Sandbanks Provincial Park.

The letter, they say, would speak to the County’s strategic priorities and planning policy to ensure building preservation, and to pursue a protection strategy for the provincially-owned heritage assets for the future benefit of the residents and visitors.

The Prince Edward County Heritage Advisory Committee also recommended that Ontario Parks “seek the creation of a joint public/private partnership to restore and repurpose the MacDonald and Hyatt properties” in its Environmental Registry submission, in January.

Liz Driver, Peter Lockyer and Sarah Sinclair have planned to speak to council in a deputation, on behalf of members of the newly formed Save Heritage Homes group.

“It is often the case that the future of a heritage building hangs by a thread, but intervention at a crucial moment changes the dial from demolition to saving and repurposing,” said Driver in her notice of deputation. “Our group believes that this is just such a moment for the Hyatt and MacDonald houses; and we thank councillor Margetson and councillor Hirsch for bringing forward their timely motion about the Sandbanks houses.”

She notes the group hopes the mayor’s letter to the new minister with oversight of Ontario Parks will send a clear wish for preservation.
She adds that David Puccini, who represents the next-door riding of Northumberland-Peterborough South, “is involved in conserving and repurposing local heritage in his own riding. He has worked on projects in Cobourg and Port Hope with those municipalities and the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and ACO’s local branches. He also understands the importance of engaging with citizens and councils regarding plans for provincially owned heritage properties, demonstrated by the fact that he is currently undertaking a public consultation for a historic site in Cobourg, asking his constituents to “imagine what we can do” with the Brookside Youth Detention Centre.”

A second new development the group hopes provides a path forward, is that in May, Ontario Parks announced a new program where the province ““will work with partners in the private and not-for-profit sectors … to develop innovative ideas for new recreation experiences at provincial parks” that will enhance the visitor experience. This initiative will be supported by a $6M government investment.”

Demolition has been delayed several times for various reasons but the houses are still standing firm on their stone foundations. Driver reminds that demolition is on pause until Sept. 1 at the earliest to protect roosting birds and bats, and to avoid the summer tourist season.

“Our group’s request to minister Puccini is simple and reasonable: Pause demolition while
you work out the details of the new program and consider how innovative proposals from
third parties could provide an alternative to demolition of the Sandbanks homes.”

New community group launches campaign to save heritage Sandbanks homes

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