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Salmon Pt lighthouse owners say cultural value ‘misleading’; should not be designated

Salmon Point Lighthouse

Reasons why the Salmon Point Lighthouse should not be designated as significant heritage value are on the Heritage Advisory Committee’s agenda Thursday.

The committee, in May, recommended council move forward with the designation without the owner’s approval, following four attempts over the past five years to contact Taylor Thomson, of Toronto. Marc Seguin, of Save Our Lighthouses, made a presentation to council in May outlining the significance of the lighthouse – including its heritage attributes, design and historical value.

In June, council deferred the motion as the property’s owner had reached out to request time to prepare a response.

Writing to the County’s manger of planning on behalf of the property owners, Nicholaos Karkas, secretary, 1859637 Ontario Limited, requests the motion be withdrawn, or defeated.

In his July 23 letter, Karkas states Seguin’s statement of cultural heritage value is misleading.

“Through no fault of the current owner, the lighthouse is in a state of extreme disrepair. Many of the structural attributes described by Mr. Seguin were ruined long ago as a result of repeated acts of vandalism, dry rot, insect infestation and weathering,” Karkas said. “The interior has been destroyed to the point of being dangerous.”

Councillor Steve Ferguson was invited to tour the site with the property manager to see its current state and hear details of various structual repairs.

He notes the property owner has “gone to extreme lengths to save the lighthouse many times over” – including undertaking necessary steps for rock replacement, concrete under-pinnings and attemps to lessen constant attacks by trespassers and vandals “who have reduced it to a boarded-up shell. Since the current owner took possession of the property, the cost of vandalism has been conservatively estimated at $100,000.”

Current mitigation efforts, he stated, include daily visits by a local warden, overnight security on long weekends and at least weekly visits by the property manager or maintenance crew.

The designation, he writes, “is in no way innocuous. Such a designation imposes significant and onerous obligations on a property owner and has a serious and negative impact on property rights.”

He notes the property owner that designation is unnecessary, and that the property is already subject to a number of environmental designations and registrations, including being a managed forest designation; a 10-year stewardship program registered with the province and developed by a registered forester.

“The property is being held as a Private Conservation Area with ‘at risk species’ and for that reason, access to the property is limited. When access is permitted, visitors must use only established roadways,” he stated. “The owner has granted chaperoned access to a number of scientific groups on request e.g. bird counts, geology group and a naturalist painting group.

“Given the track record of 1859637 Ontario Limited with respect to both the lighthouse and environmental conservation at the property, it is our respectful assertion that there is no special, or imminent need or over-riding circumstance that would support a heritage designation of the property without the owner’s support.”

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  1. Bette Jean Slaven says:

    Paul, I am a Rankin sibling and I would like to draw your attention to my previous comment, it was my siblings and I that completed the rock work, concrete under-pinning and breakwater before the property was sold and even listed for sale. Vandalism was always a problem and my parents kept a close watch over the property.

  2. Paul Adamthwaite says:

    I hesitate to step into this, but would like to fully recognize Marc Seguin’s long-term, heartfelt contribution to preserving the lighthouse component of our County’s heritage.

    However, some troublesome, perhaps even incorrect comments. “at no time … the owners … have spent a cent on the site …” yet they *bought* it (presumably for more than “a cent”) without any heritage encumbrance on the lighthouse. And the article is fairly clear on “including undertaking necessary steps for rock replacement, concrete under-pinnings and attempts to lessen constant attacks by trespassers and vandals” — again presumably more than “a cent”.

    While it would probably be most desirable for County property to be held by old-time County families (and I knew the previous County owners for decades, worked with them, and took dozens if not hundreds of youngsters to visit the lighthouse), it is perhaps unhelpful to imply that a “numbered company” is somehow nefarious, then compound that criticism with ““UNKNOWN” absentee landlord who doesn’t appear to care about it”. (Disclaimer: I have never met the numbered company, nor the unknown.)

    We, as a community, genuinely need to preserve our heritage; yet it is the cost of doing this some have difficulty in understanding. How many people remember the Main Street church demolition? Did we, as a community, buy the church? Would that have been a suitable remedy? Did we, as a community, buy the Salmon Point lighthouse?

    To turn around, years later, and retro-actively try to impose onerous OHA restrictions on a property, flies against common sense, our constitutional rights as property owners, let alone past County municipal decisions that stopped involuntary designation.

    So why do it? Is this just a “warm and fuzzy” feeling in an election year, without any regard to municipal budgets? Preserving our traditions is a complex matter, and it’s an expensive undertaking. We either want to do it and are prepared to pay for it, or we should stop short of criticizing “unknown” for “unknown” dollars for “unknown” outcomes.

    For properties that we, as a community, feel strongly about, we should take the time and make the effort to “put our money on the table.” If it doesn’t pan out financially, then we should graciously accept that the world moves on.

  3. Joan Stenning says:

    Everyone should read the above post from my sister dated Aug 25 to get the facts as some of the comments in these posts about the lighthouse and property are untrue as are some of the articles in the newspapers regarding the lighthouse

  4. Dennis Fox says:

    Sorry – the article only mentions the amount of estimated damage at $100K – at no time does it say the owners (a numbered company) have spent a cent on the site. The comments are justified – given that the site is owned by an “UNKNOWN” absentee landlord who doesn’t appear to care about it – and one who refused to respond to letters on at least 4 different occasions! Yes,it is important to read accurately and not make excuses for the owner.

  5. Veronica says:

    Why are people commenting without reading? The story clearly states the current owners have spent, and are spending plenty in rehabilitation and to combat vandalism!

  6. Dennis Fox says:

    Susan – great idea!

  7. Susan says:

    The Heritage Advisory Committee might serve us better by finding financial ways to save the many barns 150-200 years old that are rapidly collapsing. The public can see these.

  8. Fred says:

    There is nothing wrong with a property returning to it’s natural state. I doubt they purchased the property because of a derelict lighthouse. Heritage Advisory Committee has their noses into too many peoples property. When they come with $$ to restore perhaps it will be different.

  9. Dennis Fox says:

    The building doesn’t belong to the HAC – however, the committee can recommend that it be designated. What needs to be remembered is that there are, by law, specific criteria to follow for this to happen. In general, such laws are in place to protect our history and heritage, even when the property appears to be owned by an uncaring owner.

    Wouldn’t it be great if the owners of the lighthouse would try to save it – without all this controversy. I would still like to know why they bought it, if they weren’t going to take care of it.

  10. Fred says:

    Did the Heritage Committee come forward with a funding plan to restore and preserve the lighthouse, if it is even practical? Keep in mind that if public funds were used, the public would still not have access.

  11. Dennis Fox says:

    My, my Lord Thomson of Fleet? And here I was hoping that it might have been our own X-Lord Conrad of Prison with his sidekick Barbara. Either way, it does make one feel that the lighthouse is doomed.

  12. Gary Mooney says:

    I believe that the current owner is billionaire Taylor Thomson, sister of David, Lord Thomson of Fleet (oh, those Thomsons!).

  13. Dennis Fox says:

    Regardless of the reasons, the fact is this issue is now the subject of a public meeting, a public online article and now a public discussion. Like it or not the public are involved and so are the Heritage Committee – the current owners are as much responsible for this as are the Heritage Committee. If the current owners had shown even the minimal of interest on taking care of the property, then perhaps none of this discussion would be taking place. The fact is, they don’t appear to care two hoots about the property and are purposely letting it decay to the point where it will have to be destroyed. If anyone cares about keeping it, then find why this is happening and stop complaining about the public and the Heritage Committee being involved – or else be prepared to see it fall into ruin.

  14. Bette Jean Slaven says:

    Dennis, I do not feel this is the forum to discuss the issues you raise however I will say our understanding from their realtor was that the property would be well looked after and the lighthouse would be restored. Obviously, neither of these things have happened, so something changed their mind. Yes, you are right the property and lighthouse still mean a lot to us and our families. Read the article under the picture carefully.
    There are so many rules regarding developing around water that this is not very feasible. I don’t know if you have ever been on the property but there is more water than land and not a whole lot of area to build. If the land behind this property were bought, this would be a whole different story.

  15. Mark says:

    I don’t think it is anyone’s business including the heritage committee.

  16. Dennis Fox says:

    Thank you Bette Jean for your information and insights into this situation. It is obvious that you care deeply still about this lighthouse – let’s hope that the new owners do as well. I wonder what the new owners original plan was for the property? It is difficult to believe that anyone would just buy it for the purpose of restoring it – was their plan for the future of the lighthouse indicated at the time of purchase?

    While I too don’t know what the Heritage Committee have done or said, I can’t believe that they would do anything to jeopardize the lighthouse – if anything wouldn’t their involvement cause the new owners to clarify their plans to save the lighthouse? The fact that the new owners have told council that they don’t see any historical value in the lighthouse makes me believe that they have other more damaging plans for this structure.

    Does anyone know how we can find out what the new owners plan to do? And who then are the new owners?

  17. Mark says:

    Good response, and that is the way I saw things unfold. I used to hunt on that shore and had legal access as long as the government docks were in place.

  18. Bette Jean Slaven says:

    I have just become aware of these posts regarding the lighthouse. I being one of the Rankin siblings would like to set the record straight on some of the information. First of all neither the Weston or Stronach families own this property. My parents Stanley and Alice Rankin owned this property including the lighthouse since sometime in the early 40’s originally purchased as a commercial fishing operation until their death, my dad in Jan and my mom Sept, 2009. The Rankin siblings then sold the property in 2011. At some point the government in agreement with my parents installed a dock with the condition the public would have access to the dock…..this did not mean the public had access to the rest of the property including the lighthouse.. just the small road leading to the dock. This property when I was a child was covered with bushes and trees with a path along the lake to the harbour and one to the lighthouse. At some point the public started squatting on the property setting up tents, picnicing etc. My parents then decided they needed to develop the land into a campground, I believe this was in the mid to late 60’s. Over the years the dock needed repair and as part of the agreement the government was responsible for keeping the dock intact and safe etc. This was okay for a while, however eventually the government did not keep their part of the bargain and my parents purchased the dock from the government, I still have the bill of sale. At that time the public’s access was curtailed. My dad tried to keep the dock in a good state of repair, however as he aged this became a challenge he could no win, due to not only the extreme weather conditions but high cost. My parents also spent a large amount of money trying to keep the lighthouse intact, inside and out. A picture of the lighthouse being painted appeared in the Picton Gazette I believe in 1978. In an article dated January 31, 1979 by the late Phil Dodds, he gives credit to my father for his efforts in preserving the lighthouse which, “is threatened by wind and weather as well as the seas which often roar in on the rocky exposed shore.” My dad had rocks hauled and placed around and under the lighthouse as well as supports to hold the lighthouse. After the passing of my parents we siblings had large rocks hauled from Essrock and placed under the lighthouse, as well as stilts placed under the structure as the ones my father had done had deteriorated over the years. We also had a breakwater built so the waves would hit the wall at great force instead of the lighthouse. I believe the new owners were given credit for this in one of the articles when in fact it was the Rankin family. In addition to this, we had large rocks from Essrock placed on the shore leading along the entrance of the property. My parents did the best they could at great expense to keep the lighthouse from extreme deterioration inside and out and I really get upset when I read comments from people who know nothing about the situation to say otherwise. The public were always allowed access to view the lighthouse at a very minimal charge, at one time .25 cents and in later years $2 per car for the day and then in even later years $5 per car for the day. Commercial photographers were charged $25 in later years, if they were honest and told my mom what they wanted to do. Even at those very cheap fees the public would try and sneak in.
    I understand a lot of vandalism has taken place over the last few years and I am really sorry to hear this. I hate to see the lighthouse and property fall into disrepair. At the time we sold the property we understood the property and lighthouse we’re going to be well looked after and the lighthouse restored. Although I have no evidence I believe the interference of the historical society may have changed the minds of the new owners. My opinion is just having the lighthouse restored and preserved even if it isn’t in compliance to the guidelines of the historical society would be better than not having it restored at all.

  19. Dennis Fox says:

    Why do you oppose designating buildings to protect our culture and history, and yet will support a politician and out of town owners and developers who would like to destroy them?

  20. Emily says:

    And the person/group pushing for designation without the owners consent were not trying to influence Council? Come on now.

  21. Dennis Fox says:

    He’s not my councillor in question, but I do question his actions and his judgement. Due diligence can be done with reading staff reports and having the owner and their lawyer come in and to talk with all of council and staff. Ferguson meeting with these people on his own does not serve this community nor council well. Why weren’t the planning staff there too? The owner and their lawyer is trying to influence the decision before presenting their case to the planing staff or council. There is nothing proper about this process of meeting with councillors individually and privately.

  22. Emily says:

    I reasonably assumed that your Councilor in question was doing his due diligence and homework so that he fully understood both sides of the issue, having already heard from those pushing designation. Appears totally appropriate and would reflect a Councilor that desires to be fully informed on the matter.

  23. Mark says:

    Correct. I have been down this road personally and eventually had Council remove heritage interest status. Owner’s need to drive the process and cannot be stuck with a designation money pit.

  24. Dennis Fox says:

    It doesn’t matter who sits on what committee. The purpose of a council designate is to liaison between the committee and council -it doesn’t give any councillor the go-ahead to meet with developers or their lawyers. Instead their lawyers should be meeting with all of council and/or the planning staff. You can call me paranoid or whatever, but the County is just (hopefully) coming into focus for the development world – council must establish clear rules around protocols for proper business behaviour – what this story describes isn’t it!

    Other communities and their councillors have gotten themselves into serious trouble, due to improper relationships with developers and money people. Do you remember not all that long ago when some councillors had made private deals with the wind turbine people? Rules need to be made to protect council and councillors from these conflicts. Both the public and council will be served better.

  25. Steve Staniek says:

    When the County heritage committee voted in hostile designation, or designation against the owner’s wishes in 2012, after the old church fiasco, they took away everyone’s traditional property rights in the unwanted heritage district on Main, and potentially the rest of the County. This Council has been misled by a few leaders, who have abused the downtown business community. I toured it in 2016, 3 years after the heritage district had been launched, and there was nothing but anger and disdain for Shire Hall for imposing the useless legal nightmare. Now everyone’s property rights are at real risk, as this derelict lighthouse owner has discovered. The UN declares that our property rights are an extension of our human rights…taking people’s property rights without our consent is undemocratic and unethical.

  26. Emily says:

    Dennis, Councilor Ferguson sits on the Heritage Committee!

  27. Mark says:

    When the federal docks were there anyone had legal access on the road to the point. You make a good point in the fact that now no one would be able to see the lighthouse anyways. I doubt moving it would be a practical solution.

  28. ADJ says:

    I believe Councillor Ferguson is on the Heritage Comm. board as a Council rep.
    The property in question was a private campground owned by the Rankin family, then later sold to the Weston family. The lighthouse was once a rental by the Rankins and suffered damage in the high water flooding last year similar to the Pt. Traverse lighthouse.This one sits on a point of land owned by Wildlife Canada who do not encourage visitors to the site. Both lighthouses are on a private road, no easy access, and a fair distance from the main road. I would suggest the Heritage Comm. if possible purchase and remove both lighthouses and relocate to the Mariners Park museum for restoration.Tender for repairs paid for through grants or community fundraising.

  29. ron slatter says:

    it matters not who owns the property this old relic of a building is not worthy of a designation of heritage

  30. Mark says:

    That lighthouse has been in severe disrepair for decades even when the government docks were there,that allowed every citizen access to the point. Heritage groups should leave it be unless they can provide the $$ to restore, if even possible. Always trying to dictate what people can do with there own property without a nickel invested.

  31. Dave says:

    The owner of the property I heard was Frank Stronach and it is an investment. A Heritage designation hurts the value of the investment.

  32. Dennis Fox says:

    Why would anyone buy an old lighthouse that had a long history of use in The County and then not use it or take care of it? The answer is obvious – allow the building to crumble into a state of disrepair, claim it has no value, tear it down and develop the land for an expanded lakeside use – a money maker!

    Council has a process in place to deal with such buildings and requests – the Planning Department and the Heritage Advisory Committee! There is a reason for their existence – to keep the hands of the politicians away from the process until it appears before council!
    Considering some of the decisions the Heritage Advisory Committee have made re: some of the downtown businesses – I can’t imagine them not designating this site.

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