Built Heritage News – Issue No. 209 – March 26, 2013 – CRB decision on Bala Falls released

Following news report by Catherine Nasmith is from Built Heritage News – Issue No. 209 – March 26, 2013:

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CRB decision on Bala Falls released

Catherine Nasmith

The town dock, Lake Muskoka, Bala, Ontario

Right at the top I should say I was the expert witness for the Township of Muskoka Lakes in the recent Conservation Review Board hearings regarding the designation of three municipally owned properties in Bala.

Lots of hats were tossed by heritage advocates in Muskoka last week following the release of the CRB’s decision. For heritage policy wonks the decision is an interesting one, and it was a relief to me, and many community members who had argued long and hard for protection, to see the CRB endorse designation of all three properties. The appellant was Swift River Energy Corporation, who retained Golder Associates’ Marcus Letourneau and Chris Andreae.

There were long detailed arguments on both sides of the case and the decision incorporates elements from both sides, and also offers suggestions for amending the designation statements. It also provides guidance on process regarding the issuance of Notice of Intention to Designate.

The three sites are small pieces of a much larger cultural heritage landscape in Bala, which the Town chose to protect under Part IV, with a view to including them in a larger Part V process in future. The decision contains discussion of the relationship between the Ontario Heritage Act and the Planning Act when it comes to protecting views to and from a heritage property, as well as guidance on how and what can be listed as heritage attributes in a designation statement. The decision is not conclusive on including views as heritage attributes.

The case is unlike most that come before the Board in involving a built structure, or art as in the recent Shift case. All three places are low key, seemingly ordinary places in Muskoka, the Town dock, a parking lot that was created when rock was blasted away to bring a modern highway to the town and the portage landing between the Moon River and Lake Muskoka which has been in continuous use for over a century.

These places all are important and valued by the community in different ways, but unless you know the economic and cultural history it isn’t immediately obvious what the cultural value of these places might be. Each was being designated to protect space for activities that are important to the community, portaging, community festivals, and a regatta that has been ongoing for over a hundred years. The town dock is in the general location of the former Steamship dock where travelers transferred from the train to water transport, but apart from potential archaeological remains, the train station and the steamships exist only in memory and on many Bala postcards. “Spirit of Place” is an important idea in the protection of these publicly owned places.

The decision offers lessons for all sides and for municipalities looking at Cultural Heritage Landscape designations.

[End of excerpt from Built Heritage News – Issue No. 209 – March 26, 2013]


This is encouraging news!


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