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Legal proceedings to save historic homes at Sandbanks withdrawn

Liz Driver photographed the Hyatt  and MacDonald houses in February, 2021 fearing the front yards were plowed in preparation for demolition.

Legal proceedings made in attempt to save two historic homes at Sandbanks Provincial Park have been withdrawn.

On May 11, County resident and heritage architect Edwin Rowse withdrew his application for judicial review of the province’s decision to amend the Sandbanks Provincial Park Management Plan to permit the demolition of the Hyatt and MacDonald Houses; and also his motion for a site visit to the two properties.

He hopes a recent ministry announcement will open a new path forward for the future of the houses and stimulate a dialogue with the community in the coming months.

In March, when demolition of the houses seemed imminent, Rowse filed a motion for a stay of demolition. Justice David Corbett of the Ontario Divisional Court ruled the matter would be determined through a judicial review hearing before three judges, scheduled for Sept. 15. Upon Rowse’s withdrawal from the legal action, the province agreed not to request costs.

At the outset of the judicial review process, the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks undertook not to demolish the houses until the court rendered its decision. Documents released by the Ministry as part of the judicial review confirmed that no demolition will happen in the period March 31–Sept. 1 to protect affected species of nesting birds and roosting bats and also to avoid the busy summer season for the park.

Since Ontario Parks initiated the process to demolish the historic buildings in 2017, the Hyatt House and MacDonald House have escaped demolition three times because of community engagement: in March 2020, after the Prince Edward County Heritage Advisory Committee and mayor and council raised concerns in response to the ministry’s notice on the Environmental Registry; in Fall 2020, after Philip Evans of ERA Architects brought forward an alternative development proposal for the ministry’s consideration; and in March 2021, after Rowse filed a motion for a stay of demolition and then applied for judicial review.

“The community cares deeply about the survival of these historic farmhouses and former holiday lodges, which still stand intact on County Road 12, in their original location near the Lake Ontario shore,” said environmental lawyer Eric Gillespie.

On May 28 the Ontario government announced it is “investing in upgrades to Ontario Parks that will boost outdoor recreational experiences for all visitors”

“Importantly, the province states it “will work with partners in the private and not-for-profit sectors to find new ways to … develop innovative ideas for new recreation experiences at provincial parks, with the best ideas receiving support through seed money.”

Ontario is also moving forward with a $6 million investment in upgrades “to improve the quality and availability of overnight stays, including … expanding and improving roofed accommodations, such as cabins and yurts.”

Rowse welcomes Ontario Parks’ approach of seeking innovative ideas from the community, noting that the County is known for its creative rural economy and for imaginative ways of repurposing heritage buildings.

Rowse believes that the Hyatt and MacDonald houses have huge potential for adaptive re-use.

“One or both houses could be used as an interpretive centre/hospitality base for clusters of nearby cabins or yurts. Developing a project that integrates the historic houses with new individual roofed accommodations would create an experience for Sandbanks visitors that is unique in Ontario. Such a project would both conserve these significant built heritage assets and recognize their past history as tourist accommodation – the Hyatt House as Lakeview Lodge and MacDonald House as Lakeland Lodge.”

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. Charlie Campbell says:

    Well the statue will be removed. Perhaps S JAM’s… grave site (kingston) should be moved too? And what about you, especially if your family history was established in the County/Country. Any slaves in your great great great great grandparent’s closets? Any killings of indigenous persons? The point being is that unless you were told about your families past, you DON’T know it! But your lack of knowledge doest change that, does it! We can not change our past.
    And most of us never even knew about our past, until recently. Now, we are beginning to hide our history? Or, like a few other countries, let’s just re-write it, so it is nicer. Hey, I know, we can canceled July 1st too! What about the MacDonald/Cartier highway? Highway 400 series folks. (Shaking my head). We need knowledge, and reasons to question. This out of sight out of mind thinking is not the way to go. Charlie

  2. CountyProud says:

    Wow DEE, I love that idea. I do hope you have the opportunity to put such a creative and meaningful idea forward for consideration.

  3. Dee says:

    There is hope. What is needed is a working group of citizens to stay on top of this and to bring forward ideas for the re-use of these properties. It would be great to see one turned into an old fashioned general store – the original information centre of settlers- …selling local product including products from our local First Nations neighbours. Great way to create positive relations between Sandbanks Parks and the community. Park gets rent and good will. Cost of restoration would not be so high. Given this Park is one of the most visited in Ontario, some serious attention should be given here.

  4. CountyProud says:

    A wonderful piece of great news for two grand old historic properties. Here’s hoping this all unfolds the way many County residents hope.

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