Court asks township to maintain Raisin River heritage center status

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ST. ANDREWS WEST — The Ontario Lands Tribunal has told the Township of South Stormont it should not remove a heritage designation from the Raisin River Heritage Centre.

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South Stormont Council had proposed this first step towards demolishing a facility which it says is in poor condition and would be very expensive to renovate and reopen safely. The municipality is required to review the report and judgment of tribunal member Daniel Nelson before making a final decision on the building.

Regardless of the appeal of the township’s stated intention to remove the property from the list, from the hearing and from this judgment, council retains final say on whether to proceed with its decision to remove the building’s heritage designation. and tear down the center, or find another plan.

Jennifer MacIsaac, one of the South Stormont councilors reached on Friday, said council had not yet had a chance to discuss the court report, but that would be coming soon.

“(Township) staff intend to present this discussion and report, with recommendation, at the May 11 council meeting,” MacIsaac said.

The court was held in mid-February and the just-released report says the township “must continue to treat the (center) as an important part of the township’s cultural heritage.”

The report points out that the township’s own witness acknowledged the historical and cultural value of the building during testimony – which was the main question the hearing tested, not whether it is possible to keep the building standing or fix it. for future use.

Repair seems unlikely. The once majestic brick building built over 170 years ago was deemed unsuitable for occupancy in 2017.

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  1. Former Cornwall resident Julie Harris (top left) during her presentation to the Ontario Lands Tribunal.Handout/Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network

    Ontario Lands Tribunal holds hearing on Raisin River Heritage Center

  2. The Raisin River Heritage Center in St. Andrews West.  Photo taken Sunday January 31, 2021 in St. Andrews West, Ont.  Todd Hambleton/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network

    Seven demands that Raisin River Heritage Center retain its designation

  3. The Raisin River Heritage Center in St. Andrews West.  Photo taken Sunday January 31, 2021 in St. Andrews West, Ont.  Todd Hambleton/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network

    Raisin River Heritage Centre, in disrepair, about to be demolished

In 2021, the council’s plan to demolish the building was revealed after the township hired an engineering firm to provide an updated estimate of what it would cost to safely reopen the building for use. public. It was reported that it would cost over $892,000 to access part of the building. The cost of renovating the building so that it could be used as a regional archives center was $1,773,873.

The township got an estimate for what it would cost to demolish the structure, and it came to $698,800.

During the day-long virtual court two months ago, expert witness Julie Harris described the center as “an increasingly rare example of a former Catholic convent and school in Ontario.”

Those fighting to save the center, while happy with the court’s decision, recognize that making the facility safe and functional again is a daunting task.

“A huge challenge is the lack of land attached to the building,” said Jordan Munn, who initiated a petition to Save St. Andrews Convent that garnered more than 1,300 signatures as of early 2021.

During the hearing, the township’s expert witness, Rick Taylor, pointed out that the five-foot perimeter surrounding the building would not allow ambulances or emergency vehicles to access it. He said the septic tank is also located somewhere on the surrounding property, which is owned by the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario. The building itself cannot be reached without crossing school property.

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Councillors, explaining their desire to demolish, said schoolyard safety was a big concern.

But, Munn and Kae Elgie, past presidents of the Architectural Conservancy Ontario, said they had encouraging meetings with school board representatives last fall.

“We hope the school board will agree to provide the small amount of additional land that would make the building viable, possibly through an easement or joint use agreement,” Munn said.

Another challenge is finding an occupancy and use of the building that will address the school board’s concerns about student safety, and Munn and Elgie’s meeting with board officials discussed several possible solutions, including limiting the use of the building outside of school hours or to persons who have passed a criminal record check.

“It will take some creative thinking, but it’s not impossible,” Munn said.

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