Will Burlington’s heritage get the boost and the support it needs from Council this week? Time for some decisions.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  October 1, 2012  This could be a great week for the city’s heritage integrity. The Pump House and Freeman Station fates get considered – good for a go on both of those.  The Heritage Advisory report will get taken through a long exhaustive debate and discussion.  Will this be the definitive report on heritage buildings for Burlington or will the battle continue for another couple of years?

Burlington has both rural and urban heritage. The fight to save good examples of both has been an ongoing battle with two distinctly different views in the city struggling to dominate. While they battle, some good examples of heritage building get torn down. We lose about one a month along Lakeshore Road.

The Heritage Advisory Committee’s report is before the Community Development Committee this evening and both the Freeman Station and the Pump House get talked through at the Budget and Corporate Services Committee on Tuesday.

We will go into detail on the Heritage Advisory Committee recommendations once it has gone through council committee.  In the past there have been numerous delegations at the podium – there are just three registered to speak this evening. We might all get home at a decent hour.

We can tell you now that the committee considering the Pump House Freeman Station has a staff report that has as many hurdles as a 200 metre race but the staff recommendation is to take a “rolling process”  approach as they weave their way through the more than ten jurisdictional and government agencies that have to be dealt with.

Try this for a maze of agencies:

Provincial Policy – Regard for the Provincial Policy Statement and Places to Grow; City of Burlington Official Plan and Zoning By-Law. These lands fall under the City’s control (through the lease), so the City may use the rights it has under the Public Authority clause of the Zoning By-Law to permit alternative and complimentary uses, however, only through careful consideration.

Add in the City Permits/Building Code; don’t forget  Taxation  and then there is the  Heritage Designation and then  Conservation Halton (CH) has to be included in the mix.  The pump house is located within the “Dynamic Beach Regulated Hazard Area” as defined by CH.  Any change in use will require CH approval. No building additions are permitted in this zone so any exterior patios, decks, concrete pads, waste facilities, and servicing works all require CH approval.

Is it worth saving? Without a sensible heritage policy Burlington has flip flopped and let some real historical gems have an encounter with the wrecking ball.

The Region is at the table in a big way.  Beachway Park is designated as a Regional Waterfront Park and an Environmentally Sensitive Area in the Region’s Official Plan, and therefore is subject to various policies and regulations regarding use, development and protection. Water and sewer connections require the Region’s approval. Full urban sanitary sewer connections are currently not permitted in this area.

Are you getting the drift here?  Then there are the licensing Agencies. The Alcohol and Gaming people need to be dealt with – the Health Department for a food service establishment.  Then there is the actual lease agreement.  Did you count them?  More than ten.

However, if the political will is there and so far it is very much there, this can happen.  Will it happen before the pier is open – with the Burlington Pier this is not one I would bet on.

What appears to come out of the staff report is that they would like to see this happen but there are some issues out there that need time and attention.

A solid move on the part of city council to seek expressions of interest in turning the pump house into a coffee shop/pub/wine bar. Might be the beginning of a shift to giving the heritage of the city more integrity than it has had in the past.

Before this opportunity can go forward staff wants the city to issue a Request for Expressions of Interest to the retail sector and see who might be interested in leasing the space.  If there is the kind of interest the city is looking for – this one could actually happen.  Many people want to see something  quite a bit more upscale than the “Burger Stand” 50 feet or so from the pump house that has sanitary facilities that curl the nostrils.

However, getting someone to take the bait may not be that easy.  When the city went looking for someone to take over the operation of the Paletta Mansion – there weren’t the kind of opportunities and the request for Expressions of Interest was withdrawn.

Hamilton has a very well-run and very popular coffee shop on their waterfront that you have to line up to get into.

The pump house was built in 1909 as part of a new waterworks system to provide piped water from Lake Ontario to Burlington residents and reduce reliance on well supplies.  Construction of the new waterworks system was seen as a catalyst for the growth, development and betterment of the Village of Burlington.

More than 100 years later and we are looking at the development of the Beachway Park that now has a very small residential community within it.  There was a time when the community was large and very robust but at the time not seen as a nice part of town.

Historically significant? How many of these does the city want to save and will taxpayers go along with the cost of keeping these buildings? Council has not shown a tremendous amount of leadership on this file. The Heritage Advisory committee has come forward with a new approach. We’ll tell you how Council reacts to the recommendations.

The pump house was in service from 1910 to 1936. The building was then used as a residence for the next 50 years. The building was purchased by the City in 1987. It sits on Conservation Halton (CH) lands, however the building itself is owned by the City.

While CH owns the majority of the lands that comprise Beachway Park, both the City and the Region of Halton own various adjacent parcels. The City is responsible for the operational aspects of the Park under a lease/operating agreement with CH.

The pump house was designated as a heritage property in 1992, recognizing the historical and architectural significance of this building.  After acquisition, the pump house was used as an operational centre for lifeguard staff when the beach was directly supervised by city staff.  Currently the building is used for storage to support the beach pavilion concession and Parks and Recreation Department operations.

The pump house is a one-storey building with a full basement. It has a concrete foundation structure and solid brick exterior.  The main entrance access is 4 steps up from grade level which presents an accessibility challenge.

The building is serviced by a 5/8” water-main and a ½” natural gas supply. The sanitary system is a septic tank and weeping tile system which is currently not functional.  A new slate roof and gutters were installed and the fascia and soffits were restored along with a new 200 amp electrical service that the city spent  $45,000 to have done.

The city estimates it might take as much as $70,000 to get the building to the point where it could be leased and advises that there is $62,000 tucked in an envelope somewhere for just this type of thing.

On a very optimistic note the staff report has a pub opening in October of 2013 – that might be before the Pier opens; imagine that.

The Freeman station is quite a bit further along.



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