The ERA Architects peer review of the Clock Tower Heritage Impact Assessment will itself be reviewed says the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, Bob Shelton.
Shelton was responding to my email (below) calling for the contract to be terminated.
The peer review has a crucially important role in the validation (or otherwise) of the Heritage Impact Assessment commissioned by Clock Tower developer Bob Forrest. It can be expected to figure prominently in the comprehensive report on Forrest’s development application currently being written up by the Town’s planning staff.
In a memo to the Heritage Newmarket Advisory Committee on February 9, 2016 which enclosed an updated Heritage Impact Assessment, Dave Ruggle, the senior planner responsible for the Clock Tower file, solemnly told members "Please be advised that the HIA will be peer reviewed". The Advisory Committee subsequently voted against the Forrest proposal.
The performance standards expected from consultants and contractors working for the Town are set out in By-law 2014-27.
At some point the review of the peer review will be made public.
The on-line petition against Forrest's proposed Clock Tower development, promoted by Margaret Davis, has 1,048 supporters (as of Friday 20th am). The rival petition promoted by Jill Kellie supporting the development has stalled at 219 supporters.
May 20, 2016
I have discussed the review process with staff and advise that your comments and various points will be provided to Planning staff for their consideration as part of the review of the peer review report. We appreciate the time you have taken to provide detailed comments. I also advise that we have a performance review process for consultants and contractors working for the Town.
Bob Shelton CAO
May 17, 2016
Dear Mr Shelton
I am writing to ask you to take steps to terminate the Town’s five year contract with ERA Architects.
As you know, staff had been delegated authority by Council to award this contract. There have been two peer reviews of the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) of 178, 180, 184, 188, 190 and 194 Main Street South – on July 22, 2014 and May 4, 2016 – and neither remotely approaches the standard the Town should expect.
In the guidelines setting out the scope of work and specifications, the Town asked for a peer review of the HIA which would address “inconsistencies, factual errors, discrepancies, inappropriate conservation advice not consistent with recognized standards… omissions and misrepresentations.”
The Town made it clear in its guidelines to proponents that
“the preferred protective and mitigative measures will be consistent with the Lower Main Street Heritage Conservation District Plan…”
First, the peer review does not address head-on the proposed demolition by the developer of the historic commercial buildings in Main Street South even when the Town’s own Lower Main Street South Heritage Conservation District Plan says at paragraph 126.96.36.199:
“The Town supports the retention of historic buildings in the district. If a property owner proposes to demolish or remove an historic building, a heritage impact assessment may be required at the discretion of the Council to ascertain whether there are alternatives to demolition or removal. Notwithstanding the findings of the heritage impact assessment, the Town reserves its right to refuse the application for demolition or re-location; and the property owner has right of appeal.”
There is no discussion by ERA of the architectural or heritage merits of the historic commercial buildings that are proposed to be demolished by the developer with only the facades remaining. This is clearly a major omission.
Secondly, in the peer review dated May 4, 2016, the Town is advised by ERA that:
“The height of the proposed new construction on Park Street (sic) has been reduced from the 2014 proposal from nine to seven storeys. It is our opinion that the current proposed height on Park Street (sic) is appropriate.”
It is not immediately obvious why ERA should regard seven storeys as “appropriate”.
However, in its earlier peer review of July 22, 2014 in relation to Mr Forrest’s proposed nine storey development, ERA advised the Town:
“A six storey height limit is appropriate based on height permissions contained within the UC-D2 zone, which is found on lands immediately adjacent to the westerly portion of the development site to the rear of the Main Street properties.”
The above-ground development site falls solely within UC-D1 zone which limits new developments to 3 storeys. The height cap in the zoning by-law is also reflected in By-law 2013-50 which designates the Lower Main Street South Heritage Conservation District. The ERA peer review does not address the merits of retaining UC-D1 zoning even though the Heritage Impact Assessment explicitly acknowledges the proposed development would breach the height restriction in the Heritage Conservation District Plan.
ERA Architects appear to believe that at least part of the development site falls outside the Heritage Conservation District boundary. In the July 22, 2014 report, ERA state:
“The document (by Goldsmith Borgal & Company Ltd) concludes that the proposed development achieves a balance between the heritage and intensification goals of the Town by setting the nine-storey portion of the building outside of the Heritage Conservation District boundary, thus maintaining the Main Street South streetscape.”
This is manifestly incorrect. The proposed nine storey building was entirely within the HCD boundary, with its three storey height cap.
There may be correspondence between the Town and ERA picking up on these points. I do not know.
The latest peer review does not correct obvious errors (Park Street instead of Park Avenue) nor does it examine the Heritage Impact Assessment through the lens of the Town’s Heritage Conservation District Plan which, under the terms of the contract, it is obliged to do.
ERA Architects has not fulfilled the terms of its contract with the Town.
For your ease of reference I am attaching the relevant documentation from the Town.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (Newmarket Branch)
(The email above corrects two errors in the original. In the fourth paragraph the word “protective” was missed out. In the 8th paragraph “seven” appeared as six.)