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City council fast tracks efforts to protect heritage home

Vote moves towards designating 13 Stuart St. as a heritage property
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Guelph City Council voted to fast track efforts to protect a 126-year-old city mansion Tuesday night.

Amidst fears that the house was on the verge of being demolished, council voted 10-1 to pass a notice of intention to designate 13 Stuart St. as a heritage property.

The stately home, located in the St. George’s Park neighbourhood just east of downtown, was once the home of the Cutten family.

Its current owners, John and Pamela Rennie, were not in attendance at Tuesday’s council meeting, but their lawyer Eric Davis was.

Davis was seeking a delay in council’s decision.

“My clients haven’t had adequate time to consider this matter” and their options, Davis told council.

He said the speed at which the matter got before council has “taken them aback.”

Even council’s heritage champion, Coun. Leanne Piper, agreed that it is “usually a much longer process.”

But Piper said what brought the matter to council so quickly was a “concern in the community and amongst staff that demolition has already started to occur.”

Interior demolition has apparently already taken place, a staff report to council said.

“It’s been completely gutted,” Piper said.

“This is really a no brainer. The time for comment from the property owner is over.”

The punishment for demolishing a property designated as a heritage property is up to a $50,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

The current owners, who live in a home next door, paid over $1 million for the property.

The Rennies did not attend a Heritage Guelph meeting on the issue and Deputy CAO Scott Stewart told council the city wasn’t getting “full cooperation” from the owners.

Davis, who said he had little knowledge of what had happened inside the home other than that it was “mold” related, asked for a one month deferral in council’s vote.

“It will give us added time to determine what our position is,” Davis said in requesting more time.

 But he didn’t get it.

Ward 6 councillor Mark MacKinnon was the only councillor around the horseshoe who voted against the notice of intention to designate the property. Councillors Andy Van Hellemond and Cathy Downer were not at the meeting.

MacKinnon wanted to defer the matter until June 26.

Davis said his clients had not applied for a demolition permit and he didn’t know if they even wanted to.

“There are no plans to demolish,” he said.

Local heritage advocate Susan Ratcliffe, one of three delegations in support of designating the structure, said “this is no longer a private matter, but a pressing city concern.”

Fellow heritage advocate Kirk Roberts, who lives near the property, said “there is zero protection on this property right now.”