Changes to Built Heritage Sub-Committee Proposed for Next Term

Thursday, November 27, 2014

By Leslie Maitland, Heritage Ottawa

Yesterday the City announced its 2014-2018 Council Governance Review.

Now, before your eyelids start to get heavy, it’s worth putting on that pot of extra strong coffee and finding a comfortable chair. The Governance Review is one of those documents that’s used to decide how things get done at City Hall for the next term of Council - including how heritage matters are handled - so it’s worth some attention.

A bit of background: the Built Heritage Sub-Committee (BHSC) was created in spring 2013 as the municipal committee that provides advice to Planning Committee and to Council on heritage matters. It replaced the Ottawa Built Heritage Advisory Committee (OBHAC), which had done yeoman’s work for many years, but which through no fault of its own did not have a viable relationship with the city. Unlike OBHAC which was comprised entirely of citizen-members, the BHSC was created with four City Councillors and three citizen-members.

At the time, Heritage Ottawa had reservations about the composition of the new BHSC committee, as four councillors could overrule the advice of three citizens in a voting situation. However, with the appointment of citizen heritage experts Barry Padolsky, Sandy Smallwood, and Carolyn Quinn, the committee was provided with first-rate, soundly professional advice that was appreciated by all. It was a very successful eighteen months. Mostly.

The BHSC committee was hampered by a limited mandate - it was permitted to comment only on matters relating directly to the Ontario Heritage Act. But not all heritage matters relate to the Ontario Heritage Act. Heritage crops up in many different places - Heritage Overlays, for instance, fall under the Planning Act.

Heritage Ottawa brought the limited mandate up with Councillor Harder, chair of the Built Heritage Sub-Committee, who understood our concerns. Then, with Governance Review underway, Heritage Ottawa wrote to Mayor Watson on the 14th of November, 2014 outlining our support for the BHSC and providing our recommendations regarding where the committee’s mandate could be improved.

Yesterday’s City Staff Report regarding the 2014-2018 Council Governance Review outlined staff’s recommendations to Council regarding changes to the Built Heritage Sub-Committee. The proposed changes include allowing BHSC to comment on Heritage Overlays, and other procedural changes that, if adopted by Council, should address some of the concerns raised by Heritage Ottawa regarding BHSC’s limited mandate.  

If your interest has been piqued, you can read the City Staff Report in PDF format below.

This Staff Report will be presented to the new Term of Council on December 3rd, 2014 for approval.

The City will host a facilitated meeting in January/February 2015 to address other aspects of the BHSC’s proposed mandate. You can count on Heritage Ottawa to be there, representing the interests of heritage conservation in Ottawa and the National Capital Region.

Leslie Maitland,

President, Heritage Ottawa