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Old City Hall in Toronto in 1907. Its proposed demolition in the 1960s contributed to increased heritage awareness in Ontario, which lead to heritage protection measures such as the Ontario Heritage Act.

The Ontario Heritage Act, first enacted on March 5, 1975, allows municipalities and the provincial government to designate individual properties and districts in the Province of Ontario, Canada, as being of cultural heritage value or interest.

Contents

Designation under the Ontario Heritage Act

Once a property has been designated under Part IV of the Act, a property owner must apply to the local municipality for a permit to undertake alterations to any of the identified heritage elements of the property or to demolish any buildings or structures on the property.

Part V of the Act allows for the designation of "heritage conservation districts."

Amendments to the legislation

Until 2005, a designation of a property under the Act allowed a municipality to delay, but not ultimately prevent, the demolition of a heritage property. Heritage advocates were highly critical of the 180-day "cooling off" period provided for under the legislation, which was intended to allow time for municipalities and landowners to negotiate an appropriate level of heritage preservation, but often simply resulted in the landowner "waiting out the clock" and demolishing the heritage building once the protection of the Ontario Heritage Act had expired.

In 2005, the provincial government enacted changes to strengthen the Act. Under the amended legislation, a landowner who is refused a demolition permit under the Act no longer has an automatic right to demolish a designated building once the cooling off period has expired. Instead, the landowner has the option to appeal the permit refusal to the Ontario Municipal Board and the OMB will make the final decision on whether or not a demolition permit should issue. Where the OMB refuses to issue a permit, the landowner would have no choice but to preserve the heritage building.

The amended legislation also contains provisions which enable municipalities to enact by-laws to require owners of designated buildings to maintain the structures and their heritage elements. Such by-laws are intended to prevent "demolition by neglect", although the collapse of Walnut Hall in Toronto demonstrates that such buildings are still at risk.

Reactions to recent amendments

Many land development groups are very critical of the new legislation, as they feel that some landowners may be unfairly burdened with the cost of maintaining heritage buildings in the public interest, without any financial compensation from the public purse. Some religious denominations and school boards have also expressed concerns with the new legislation, as both groups have numerous heritage buildings as part of their land holdings and they fear that the Act will prevent them from realising any value from such properties.

Heritage advocates, however, have applauded the new legislation, as it provides a legal mechanism to protect heritage properties in Ontario with some degree of finality.

See also

External links

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