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St. John’s council encouraging ‘responsible demolition’

["St. John's City Hall. — file photo"]

Council wants to save valuable materials in doomed heritage homes

St. John’s city council wants to encourage developers to be responsible with their demolition and make sure valuable artifacts in heritage homes don’t end up in the trash when such homes are demolished.

A recommendation came from the Built Heritage Experts panel to encourage developers to give people a chance to save valuable materials inside heritage homes, should they have to be demolished in the future.

Development lead Coun. Maggie Burton says council isn’t trying to encourage the demolition of heritage homes, but rather trying to make sure historical items are saved should a home face the backhoe.

“In the case of Richmond Cottage, that beautiful spiral staircase in the middle of the home, perhaps that could have been repurposed and put into a new building somewhere else,” she said.

It’s unclear exactly what the process would look like at this point — whether a home would be open to the public for scavenging, or whether a formalized process would be undertaken.

Burton says city staff are exploring the best way to proceed with the recommendations.

The city will explore ways to enact the recommendation into a bylaw to enforce the idea. City staff are expected to propose a bylaw based on the recommendation before the end of the year.

The city is also speaking with the provincial government to encourage the development of heritage legislation.

Burton says “demolition by neglect” — essentially letting a home deteriorate until demolition is the only option remaining — is something the city wants to see addressed.

“There are recommendations to allow the city to enforce minimum property standards, to be able to protect buildings from demolition by neglect,” said Burton.

“Heritage is one of our main economic drivers in the city. The deconstruction policy — if we had one — would address salvaging any materials in the case where demolition is absolutely necessary.”

Burton didn’t have any updates on the Bryn Mawr heritage home on New Cove Road. The National Trust of Canada listed it as one of the top 10 endangered heritage structures in the country last June.

Burton says she hasn’t heard any updates on whether or not that structure will be demolished.

An application to demolish the structure was submitted to the city in April 2017.

Burton says the provincial government needs to take this issue seriously.

“The province needs to take leadership in making heritage a priority. The province doesn’t have a coherent heritage policy. Ontario has a very robust one. I encourage people to reach out to the MHAs and ask that they put heritage on the agenda,” said Burton.

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Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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