Regulatory hurdles to conserving heritage property in Toronto.

Author:Bridgman, Rae


Cet article analyse diverses reglementations et politiques concernant le patrimoine dans le contexte des processus habituels d'emission des permis de construction. L'etude de plusieurs cas torontois, allant de l'emission d'un permis d'affichage aux enjeux complexes de l'intervention dans un arrondissement historique designe, a permis de cerner les effets de certaines de ces reglementations et politiques sur les couts et la qualite de la conservation. Il est question d'une large gamme de reglementations, de codes, de directives d'urbanisme, de politiques urbaines, ainsi que des directives torontoises en matiere de patrimoine, dans leurs rapports a la pratique quotidienne en contexte municipal. L'accent est mis sur le niveau de souplesse de ces reglementations, ainsi que sur l'equilibre delicat entre les formes de controle et d'aide qui sont negociees au niveau municipal et dans le cadre de la Loi ontarienne sur le patrimoine (Ontario Heritage Act). Les auteurs concluent que la legislation actuelle est limitee dans sa capacite a proteger les sites historiques importants si les acteurs impliques dans un projet n'ont pas une bonne comprehension des enjeux de la conservation du patrimoine et s'ils ne manifestent pas d'engagement a son egard.

This article explores some of the issues that can arise when designated urban heritage buildings, sites or districts undergo redevelopment. It focuses on the complex negotiations that are involved in bringing such projects to fruition. These negotiations often involve differing interpretations of the spirit of existing guidelines and policies, and a balancing of cost effectiveness with the perceived value of the inheritance. We explore these issues within the context of what are conventionally understood as standard building permit processes or regulatory hurdles. Through three specific case studies, all located in Toronto, regulations around conservation are examined in relation to issues of cost and quality of conservation work.

The specific case studies include: (1) a listed building sign permit at one of the city's alternative art galleries, to underscore the potential threat that can be posed by regulations; (2) an alteration to a listed heritage building, illustrating the criss-crossing boundaries of regulatory jurisdiction at one of the historic hotels in Toronto; and (3) a Site Plan Agreement with multiple Heritage Easement Agreements at a historic industrial site, to illustrate the demands of conflicting regulations and policies around heritage and parking. Also, briefly considered is the situation when regulations are relatively silent.

As authors, we write from several different perspectives. Wins Bridgman writes from experiences when he was a preservation officer at Heritage Toronto (1997-1998), and from many years in private practice as a restoration architect in Toronto. Rae Bridgman writes as an urban anthropologist interested in the social construction of the built environment, and the decision-making processes by which our buildings are designed, built or re-built, and inhabited. These concerns have been the subject of previous articles on the design and development of mixed-use housing, in relation to building code regulations and planning guidelines (for both new design and renovated industrial warehouses) (Anderson 1996a, 1996b; Fritz and Anderson 1992).

In this article we ask ourselves two key questions raised by Pierre Hamel, Michel Pelletier and Claire Poitras (1996, 19) in their comparative study of planning and management strategies in the heritage centres of Puebla and Montreal. Drawing on their study and paraphrasing: "Are the prevailing compromises ... satisfactory in relation to the basic objectives of protection and development of heritage?" and "What can we learn from the strategic choices taken by decision-makers concerning heritage?" With these two questions in mind, we explore the degree to which current legislation is able to protect historically significant sites.

Our analysis of decision-making processes involved in the adaptive re-use of heritage buildings is informed by the need to draw together "the centrifugal forces of subjectivity, which are chaotic and particular, and the centripetal forces of system, which are rule-driven and abstract" (Folch-Serra 1990, 261). Drawing together system (e.g., written policies, guidelines or charters) and subjectivity (e.g., the will of various actors), leads to the recognition that places are socially constructed products of many interests--material and ideational. These interests are predicated upon relations of differential power, and the ability to negotiate, argue or convince others.

Karin Eisen (1986, 11) also frames historic preservation in Toronto as a bargaining problem, and analyzes "ways in which the tactics and relative powers of the developer and of the City's agents may affect the various outcomes of the negotiation." We have found the work of Dvora Yanow (1996) helpful as well for conceptualizing our analysis. She explores the "texture of interchanges" (xv) among those involved in interpreting, enacting, and implementing policies and regulations.

Heritage Regulations

Heritage regulations include an internationally-recognized set of ideas and charters, as well as federal, provincial and municipal policies, all of which converge for review of an applicant's submission at the municipal level. Figure 1 provides a list of a number of these regulations.

Figure 1 Heritage Regulations [Part 1 of 3] International National Provincial Principles Standards Standards and Charters of (Ontario) Preservation

Venice Charter National Ontario Heritage Building Code Act 1974 Appledon National Ontario Building Charter Standard Code 1990 Associations American National Fire Ontario Fire Interior Code Code 1990 Standards

Ontario Heritage Ontario Planning Act Act 1993 Ontario Municipal Board Conservation Review Board Ministry of Labour Figure 1 Heritage Regulations [Part 2 of 3] International Municipal Planning Principles Authorities Jurisdictions and Charters of Preservation

Venice Charter Metropolitan Legal Toronto Regional Conservation Authority (MTRCA) Appledon Official Plan Fire Department Charter

American Local Archaeology Interior Architectural Standards Conservation Advisory Committee (LACAC) Ontario Heritage Committee of Heritage Act Adjustment Conservation District Accessibility Standards Zoning Sign By-law Health and Safety Parking Requirements Environmental Compliance Figure 1 Heritage Regulations [Part 3 of 3] International Other Principles Municipal and Charters of Regulations Preservation

Venice Charter Insurance Requirements and Lenders Appledon Land Taxes Charter

American Income Tax Interior


Ontario Heritage Business and Act Sales Tax Civic Committees (e.g., Bike Safety, Accessibility)

There are at least two distinct ideas about building permit approval processes for heritage property. The first idea of regulatory hurdles may be imagined as a series of equally-spaced, provincially-enacted and municipally-enforced obstacles. These hurdles are mostly of the same height, and cast from a common mould of development restrictions and opportunities. The developer starts, jumps and finishes in an orderly sequential process. The project is more or less the same from beginning to end, and red marks on sequential design drawings show prescriptive material revisions.

In our experience, however, the metaphor of hurdles must be modified to take account of necessarily subjective heritage issues. Development processes actually involve more engaging and negotiated processes than are expressed by ideas about order and sequence. This leads to the second idea, that approval processes involve complex compromises and the balancing of many qualitative issues.

Regulations, in the most general sense, are designed to protect the users of the site or building, and represent the users' interests. Conversely, they also protect the building or site from the users. Regulations demand discussion and revision because they may overlap in their jurisdiction. They represent slowly changing entities that reflect the balance between different users, and between users' and buildings' needs, within political and economic constraints. When actually applied, the regulations require discussion and interpretation. As this occurs, regulations change, evolve and form a matrix of information. They can also be silent on issues of highly political or unresolved policy. As Yanow (1996, 18) suggests, even to assume that a regulation or policy may speak about a single, unambiguous meaning when it has been initially legislated, can be a faulty idea. Regulations, furthermore, over time and in the course of being dealt with at different organizational and governmental levels, can begin to carry additional meanings as they are implemented.

A building thus comes to represent the negotiated sum of many regulation-informed decisions. The relationships between the different levels of guidelines and their jurisdictions are complex at times. Provincial Ministry of Labour regulations, for example, hold authority over the Ontario Building Code, but may be silent on the circumstances of a particular project. Insurance requirements may contradict Part 11 of the Ontario Building Code. (Part 11 represents those standards dealing with the renovation of existing buildings.) The Fire Code also has authority over the Ontario Building Code and building permit processes. At any point in a building's history during or after construction, the Fire Code may interpret and enforce life safety requirements. Policies such as Barrier Free Accessibility...

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