Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
May 21, 2024
20° Cloudy
September 19, 2023
Volume 193 No. 38

Appeal of Wellington’s Heritage Conservation District to go to mediation

Council-approved plans for a Heritage Conservation District in the Village of Wellington, plans that define 240 properties as “contributing” to the essential character of the historic village, were put on hold late last year when a local developer appealed the decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT).

That appeal finally had its first case management conference at the OLT on September 12.

Present were Anthony Lemke, representing the company that launched the appeal; Counsel for PEC, Jennifer Savini, and Meaghan Barrett, Counsel for Mr. Lemke. Councillor John Hirsch was there, as were a smattering of Wellington residents.

Ms. Savini noted that the appellant and the County wish to pursue a tribunal-led mediation process in the hope of reaching an agreement.

Ms. Barrett agreed, “Our next step is to reach out to case coordinator to start mediation. That will assist us in ensuring a hearing is efficient, should we get there.”

The hope is to reach an agreement “within a reasonable timeline,” said Ms. Barrett.

Former Wellington resident Mr. Lemke and his two partners at Wharf Lane Developments appealed the County heritage designation district to the OLT in November 2022. They have another vision for heritage in the core, one that they believe to be supported by the County’s secondary plan in a way that the current HCD is not.

The County’s Secondary Plan, produced in 2015, distills five years of consultation and development objectives. It is one of the County’s key planning documents.

“It proposes a vision for the development of Wellington that we fully supported, one that heartened and encouraged us to invest,” said Mr. Lemke.

Mr. Lemke and his partners bought their first property in Wellington around 2015. Since then, they have acquired a portfolio of properties throughout town, including a parcel east of the village core near Belleville Street, which they plan to develop into a mixed-use commercial-residential complex.

“We want to preserve Wellington as much as anyone else here, we share the vision of the HCD to a certain extent. Our worry is that if that HCD does not allow for more density on the Main Street, for commercial development in the core of the village, they will eventually lose the pedestrian traffic and the sense of vibrant, walkable village life that is so prized by everyone who lives there,” he said.

A Heritage Conservation Study for Wellington, undertaken by consultants Bray Heritage in 2019, was approved by Council in May 2021. After months of public consultation, the Heritage Conservation District was approved in September 2022 by a vote of 11-1.

Bray Heritage suggested 240 properties be designated as “contributing” to the character of the village. Detailed design guidelines describe minimum setbacks, the ideal range of lot coverage relative to green space and set maximum building heights at 1 and ½ to two storeys.

Investors and developers objected, saying the unusually high number of designations and the strictures around renovation and expansion would make development almost impossible.

Michael Michaud, the County’s Director of Planning, stressed that his department saw the Wellington HCD and the Secondary Plan as working “hand in hand.”

“The goal is to allow for properties to evolve and new buildings to fit into the character of the area,” said Mr. Michaud. “A heritage impact assessment would be required to ensure new works are in keeping with heritage character of the community. Redevelopment scenarios could be entertained provided the approvals are in place.”

One worry is that Heritage Conservation Districts tend to preserve a perfect replica of a historic town or village over a few blocks, but those blocks begin to cater primarily to tourists — while the real shopping goes on at big box stores outside town. Picton, whose heritage conservation district was approved in 2011, has not entirely escaped this fate.

Until the case is settled, all development in the affected area of the village is on hold.

This text is from the Volume 193 No. 38 edition of The Picton Gazette
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