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City committee shoots down developer's desire to demolish historic barn

Owner says it will cost them $400,000 to repair the historic barn, located on Gordon Street
A wall collapsed from this circa. 1850 stone barn at 2187 Gordon St.

A partially-collapsed, historic south end stone barn must be repaired or a demolition permit sought for it through the regular process, a city committee ruled last week. 

That decision comes after the owner, a numbered company associated with developer Mattamy Homes, asked for a property standards bylaw order to repair the deteriorating structure be overturned and replaced with an order to tear the building down.

They say it will cost them $400,000 to repair.

“The work order is unsafe to complete and disproportionate to the nature and condition of the barn,” lawyer Jennifer Meader told the committee on behalf of the owner. “My client is not willing to take on this sufficient potential liability, particularly as it relates to human safety.”

An extension of the timeline to comply with the order was extended through the end of this year.

“Mattamy is weighing options with respect to the property at 2187 Gordon St. in Guelph, including the status of the barn" said Mattamy spokesperson Brent Carey in an emailed statement. "The company is aware of the order, but based on an engineering report, there are significant safety and liability concerns with the work that would be required and so that order is still being appealed.

"Mattamy remains committed to working with the city and Heritage Guelph on future plans for the property.”

The property is currently listed on the city’s municipal heritage registry but isn’t a designated heritage asset under the Ontario Heritage Act (OHA). It was built around 1850 and sits on the west side of the Gordon Street, south of Gosling Gardens and north of Maltby Road.

Last month, Heritage Guelph (HG) recommended city council move forward with OHA designation, but it’s unclear when that recommendation will be considered by council.

The city issued an order to Mattamy and its partners in July to repair the collapsing stone barn, including fixing holes in its roof. This wasn’t the first time the city’s ordered that the deteriorating structure be repaired, the committee heard.

Property standards inspector Stephen Jamieson said concerns about the state of the building were first raised with the owner in 2018, followed by an order to repair issued in June of 2021.

“The bottom line is they haven’t demolished or restored or done anything. Basically, the building is falling in on itself,” Jamieson explained, noting fencing was installed in an effort to prevent trespassers from getting inside the barn.

“We’re not into letting buildings just fall on their own,” Jamieson added. “You can’t leave it half up and half down.”

The latest repair order – the one under appeal during last week’s meeting – was issued after a collapsing barn wall further fell apart during the summer. 

While arguing in favour of a demolition order, Meader told the committee it would cost more than $400,000 to bring the barn up to minimum standards, while the cost to demolish and dispose of the materials is about $25,000.

Jamieson noted the owner has had years to apply for a demolition permit but hasn’t. Doing so would start the clock ticking on a 60-day window for city council to consider designating the barn under the OHA.

Meader took issue with the fact heritage considerations were mentioned in the order at all, suggesting that was an abuse of the property standards process.

“In the context of the property standards bylaw, heritage has no authority with respect to the matters you have authority to rule on,” she told the committee. “It’s just not something that is open for consideration by this committee.”


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Richard Vivian

About the Author: Richard Vivian

Richard Vivian is an award-winning journalist and longtime Guelph resident. He joined the GuelphToday team as assistant editor in 2020, largely covering municipal matters and general assignment duties
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