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Tree clearing at historic homes heightens demolition fears; year-old ministry report still not public

Wednesday morning a local resident took the attached photo a tree service company clearing trees from the Hyatt House property.


By Sue Capon
Fears the province will demolish two historic abandoned homes at Sandbanks Provincial Park were heightened Wednesday morning as concerned citizens witnessed a tree service company clearing trees from one of the properties.

Liz Driver, of the Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee (PEHAC), is concerned the two historic homes at Sandbanks Provincial Park could be gone before a request to council for action can be dealt with at its meeting Tuesday, March 9.

Ontario Parks has based its decision for demolition on heritage impact assessments, but finalized documents from a year ago, have not yet been seen by the public.

At PEHAC’s Feb. 20 meeting, the committee recommended council direct the mayor to again urgently contact Ontario Parks and the Ministry of the Environment to pause the demolition, allowing a heritage architect a reasonable amount of time to prepare a feasibility study for the rehabilitation and adaptive re-use of the houses. It also asks that the municipality reject commemoration as an acceptable mitigation for demolishing the historic farmhouses.

For the past few weeks, citizens have been supporting a campaign by the County’s Edwin Rowse, heritage architect, asking Ontario Park’s Greg Walsh, Parks Operations Manager Southeast Zone, to halt the demolition until he, the County, and PEHAC can review finalized Heritage Impact Assessments to determine whether current professional engineering and technical architectural studies have been done to justify demolition.

His concern rises from a Ministry reply to Philip Evans, of ERA Architects, who wrote the ministry last fall, leading a group of potential investors who wish to conserve the two valuable heritage assets. Evans sought a three-month due diligence period, and demolition paused, to define the scope of work, feasibility and proposed a lease agreement to protect the homes’ heritage value and make them operational within two to three years.

Evans learned Feb. 4 that Heritage Impact Assessments for the MacDonald and Hyatt Houses were finalized a year ago, on March 5, but Rowse adds they have not been released by Ontario Parks to the County, PEHAC, or publicly.

“These documents are clearly crucial for decision-making by the province, but also for public understanding of the decision,” said Rowse.

Rowse also notes that while the Environmental Registry entry for the two homes states ‘Cultural heritage resources management is based on technical cultural heritage studies’, that is only partly true.

“Heritage consultants’ studies need to be augmented by professional engineering and heritage architectural studies, which are essential for determining whether a building can be restored,” said Rowse. “This was a major point that I brought forward in my comments to the ERO, but which is not listed under ‘effects of consultation’ on the ERO. The municipality has a right to know whether this was addressed in the final Heritage Impact Assessments.”

Rowse notes the draft versions of the impact assessments did not contain up-to-date professional engineering and architectural advice, necessary to justify demolition.

“There is no reason to believe that the finalized impact assessments do either. Only a professional engineer, or heritage architect working with an engineer, are qualified to determine structural stability and danger to public safety.”

Rowse visited both houses in February 2020 and provided detailed comments on the architectural issues to the Environmental Registry.

“In my professional opinion, based on many years as a heritage conservation architect, the houses can be repaired and renovated.”

People who wish to express concerns on the issue to council should email to comment at council, or send a letter.

Concerns can also be emailed to Greg Walsh, Parks Operations Manager Southeast Zone Jeff Yurek, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks and Bay of Quinte MP Todd Smith

Click here for earlier story with further information.

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  1. Dee says:

    Susan – The proposal offered Ontario Parks would not cost the taxpayers, as 3rd party investors have shown interest in funding the restoration etc. They should at lease give consideration to the offer and if declining, give a reason why. You are right in your point that this has been mishandled by successive governments .Our governments seem to have a weakness when it comes to corporate memory. It is time they honoured their commitments and followed the proper process for Cultural Heritage. If this continues we will live in a community of nothing but plaques…how interesting is that and certainly no possibility of revenue generation.

  2. Susan says:

    I am somewhat neutral on this as I do not support taxpayers dollars to restore these buildings with little character and extreme poor condition. However I do not think several governments have handled this well for 30 years. The Heritage Act does not allow demolition because of purposeful neglect. The Province seems to think they can do what they choose, which I do not like. I don’t think the Province has followed their own processes.

  3. Chuck says:

    Cty Rd 18 through the Park will get repaired. It is a tourist road with no residential homes. That should make it top priority.

  4. Willow says:

    At one time both of these properties served well as both family and business properties serving County residents and visitors alike. Both properties have been boarded up for years, are eye sores and could be a safety risk to the public, even though No Trespassing signs are posted.

    Let Ontario Parks bring these buildings down and clean up the properties. The two properties are at the head of two walking trails, MacDonald and Lakeview. PEHAC, with support from locals, may have an easier time convincing Ontario Parks to put in parking and picnic areas with shelters. PEHAC could then fund picture/information boards of these properties, similar to what has already been done at the former Lakeland Lodge, across the road from the MacDonald homestead, and Lakeshore Lodge. That alone would be money well spent and nothing at taxpayers expense.

  5. shawn cowan says:

    why now to be demolished , how come over the last 30 years renovate and rent them make money for the park , now you have paved the road over at west point making the park bigger , and yet county road 18 threw the outlet is a disaster of a road , and now out of the blue your destroying history , those house go back to when lack shore was in operation . the county is not just about money , what about the people that started the county years ago and u forced them out , more and ,more tourists taken over treating locals wrong , just remember who pays taxes , and keeps grocery stores and so on going threw the winter months , its not a tourists , is it.

  6. Dee says:

    If everyone waits until council meeting March 9 for council to discuss and make a decision to support PEHAC motion to request a pause in demolition, the houses will be destroyed and in a rubbish pile. This destruction of our cultural heritage echoes that of the Picton Methodist Church (Pentecostal) on Main Street – 2010.

    The provincial government did not make their reports public, and until recently thanks to Mr. Rowse, the public has not been informed of the facts behind the demolition order.

    It is time an injunction is sought by the County and the Ontario government forced to be transparent and honour their commitments.

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