Galgay says heritage rules need to be amended
St. John’s city council’s decision to allow a downtown homeowner an exception to heritage regulations needs to be overturned, says the co-chairman of the heritage committee.
St. John’s city council has rejected the city’s heritage committee’s recommendation that the owner of 133 Gower Street (the house on the right) should replace the building’s windows with ones that match other houses in the area, instead of ones that are similar to the windows already in place,which is what the owner prefers. Now a councillor says he’s going to move to recind that decision at the Aug. 25 council meeting. — Telegram file photo
Late last month, city council voted — with two opposed — to allow a homeowner on Gower Street to replace his windows with similar models, rather than a type approved by the city’s heritage regulations, which he said would be much costlier to install.
But at Monday’s council meeting, Coun. Sandy Hickman, co-chairman of the city’s heritage committee, announced he would move to rescind the decision at the next council meeting.
Coun. Dave Lane, the committee’s other co-chairman, called it a misunderstanding and said after the meeting that city staff informed him the city’s heritage regulations don’t allow for council to make exceptions.
“The staff came to us afterwards and said, ‘You’re not allowed to do that,’” said Lane, who was, with Hickman, one of the dissenting votes. Council has two options in this case, said Lane: follow the regulations or change them.
“What we basically said as a council was that we’re going to ignore the regulations, and that’s just not a good idea, and that was the argument I had made as well.”
But at least one councillor plans to ignore the directive, and says he’d rather change the regulations to ensure a balance between heritage requirements and what homeowners can actually afford.
“I stand by the decision that I made,” said Coun. Jonathan Galgay — who represents Ward 2, encompassing a significant heritage area, on Tuesday.
Galgay said letting the homeowner replace the windows with similar ones is preferable to imposing costlier work.
“There’s a lot of people who are on fixed incomes. There are families out there that just cannot afford to put the work into the homes that the heritage rules are requiring of them.”
In this case, said Galgay, the regulations would require the Gower Street homeowner to do significantly more work on the home, a rental property. And if there’s no room for discretion, said Galgay, there’s not much point in having the heritage committee review the applications.
“It should be left to the planning division. It should go to the planning committee,” he said. “The heritage advisory committee should not be getting involved in these issues. They got involved with this issue and look where we are now.”
The motion to rescind council’s decision will be made at council’s meeting Aug. 25.