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Confusion over heritage register irks homeowners, advocates alike

CBC News
September 5, 2017

Just four years ago, Ottawa heritage consultant David Flemming walked down Bruyère Street in Lowertown and was treated to a scene typical of the street for the last 140 years.

People sat out on the stoops of historic brick row houses smoking, chatting with neighbours and watching their kids play. It was a tableau from another time.

Today those old homes — including the oldest house in Lowertown at the time — have since been replaced by a five-storey luxury condominium building.

They were just a small example of some of the city’s historic gems that have been lost, said Flemming, who served as past president of Heritage Ottawa.

“There are lots of places we don’t even know about,” said Flemming.

That’s why history conservationists were so dismayed last week when councillors put off a decision that could potentially save dozens of hidden heritage homes from the wrecking ball.

The city’s planning committee delayed the addition of 350 homes to the heritage register, a list of historically significant homes that are not officially designated.

Councillors seemed confused about why the register exists and what impact it has on property owners, and that makes both homeowners and heritage advocates nervous.

Homeowners anxious

Mark Audcent’s Old Ottawa south home has been flagged as a potential candidate for the heritage register. He told councillors he’s worried the designation will wreak havoc on his property values.

“Inclusion in the register is the first step in the process designed to allow the city, at a later date, to prevent the demolition of the property,” he said.

Audcent is correct, but only if his home qualifies for full-fledged designation. The uncertainty would make it more difficult to sell his home, he said.

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