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Despite objections, council moves ahead with heritage designations

Developers that own historic Gordon Street and Clair Road properties ask council reverse heritage designation plans

Despite objections from the developers who own them, city council is moving ahead with plans to require the long-term preservation of heritage features on two historic south end properties.

During its meeting Tuesday evening, city council unanimously confirmed its intent to designate 2187 Gordon St. and 331 Clair Rd. under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act.

Both are on the city’s municipal heritage registry, with designation recommended by Heritage Guelph.

2187 Gordon St.

This property includes a stone barn built around 1850, known as the James Kidd barn, and a farmhouse constructed in 1907 known as the Blair farmhouse – both families are among the area’s early settlers.

“This is definitely a landmark, not just of Ward 6 but for the city and is an important part of the gateway,” said Coun. Dominique O’Rourke. “I think there’s a lot of potential and I think there’s definitely a compelling reason to preserve it.”

The site is owned by a numbered company, of which Mattamy Homes is a part, in the midst of a legal battle with the city over the fate of the structures. The developer is fighting a property standards bylaw order issued this past summer directing that it to secure a crumbling wall and roof.

That order was subsequently upheld by the city’s property standards committee, though the committee granted an extension to the timeline for the work to be completed.

In recommending that council continue with the heritage designation process, which was initially approved in October, the city’s senior heritage planner, Stephen Robinson, noted the farmhouse and barn collectively meet six of the nine provincial criteria for designation; only two are required.

“This is a vanishing type of barn in Ontario,” Robinson said, noting it’s the last of its kind in Guelph, adding he sees an “incredible amount of adaptive reuse potential” in the building. “I see that as something that has the potential to be very successful.”

In appealing the work order, the developer points to potential safety concerns with performing the work, as well as the belief it would cost $400,000 to repair the barn and $25,000 to demolish it and dispose of the materials.

“A comprehensive, collaborative approach is instead required,” states the notice of objection to designation. “The structural condition of the barn is unsafe and not viable. The safety risks and structural deficiencies include, but are not limited to, the collapse of the north stone wall, compromised bracing of and cracks in the remaining walls, and major deficiencies in the floor beams and boards.”

Hugh Fraser, president of Ontario Barn Preservation (OBP), urged council to reaffirm its commitment to the designation process.

“The OBP is of the opinion that the stone slot Kidd Barn presents an extraordinary opportunity to preserve one of the last cultural assets of its kind, and to showcase the successes that engaged community partners can achieve by working together,” he said in a letter to council. 

He also called on council to consider creating a task force to create a “viable plan” to preserve the barn and allow it to function in a way that would “complement adjacent land uses” and “respond to neighbourhood priorities.”

331 Clair Rd. E.

The James Hanlon farmhouse, built circa. 1850, sits on the site of a proposed 136-unit townhouse development from a numbered company involving Reid’s Heritage Homes –  located on the south side of Clair Road, between Gordon Street and Victoria Road.

If ultimately approved, parts of the farmhouse are to be moved on the site and incorporated into the planned development.

The site meets four of nine criteria to be considered for designation, city heritage planner Jack Mallon told council.

“As the city of Guelph develops further south, it is imperative that we retain the few built heritage resources that remain south of Clair Road,” said Mallon. “The James Hanlon farmhouse is one of these resources that will not only provide unique amenity space to the proposed townhouse development, but will anchor the community in the agricultural history of the area.”

When the issue of designation came to council in November, the developer didn’t object. However, it did ask council to postpone its designation decision until after decisions are made regarding its requested zoning bylaw amendments.

Though she couldn’t comment on the reason for the developer’s objection now, Melissa Aldunate, the city’s manager of policy planning and urban design, said it may be the result of changes to legislative timelines – an Ontario Land Tribunal appeal of designation would allow for conversation about the specific heritage features to be preserved.

No reason for the appeal was provided in the developer’s objection notice to the city.


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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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