Monday, April 19, 2021 - 8:45 AM

Heritage By-Law Public Engagement Opportunity

50 Bonaventure Avenue House
Built heritage enhances our perspective, understanding and awareness of the past, and contributes to our sense of identity and pride. 
 
Balancing the desire to retain our built heritage with opportunities for new development in Heritage Areas has been, and will continue to be, a challenge. Ultimately, heritage resources are a gift from past generations, and are not a renewable resource, therefore we must preserve them for their unique value and the qualities that make St. John’s significant for past, present and future generations.
 
On April 5, 2021, City Council gave approval for a new Heritage By-Law to be reviewed by the City’s Built Heritage Experts Panel and the public through an engagement process. The new by-law will provide better protection for built heritage, updating our Heritage standards and including some new ideas while maintaining our focus on heritage preservation and protection.
 
So, what’s new?
 
1. We have a new set of standards for new developments in Heritage Areas. 
 
What do developers do when they want to build something new in a Heritage zone such as our downtown? Under our current standards, there hasn’t been clear direction on how to blend new commercial buildings with Heritage Areas. This makes it hard on developers, who don’t always understand the City’s expectations. We also hear from Heritage groups that the City sometimes allows modern developments that don’t reflect the surroundings. “New Buildings in a Heritage Area” sets out guidelines for what can be permitted. 
 
New buildings need to maintain traditional form and blend with the “rhythm of the street”. This means that a new building on Water Street should have   a similar look and feel as the surrounding buildings, but they can use modern materials. We’re also proposing to apply heritage standards to the first 18 metres (4 storeys), so developers could have a glass tower from the fifth storey on (similar to 351 Water Street). We believe this strikes a balance between protecting the historic fabric of the Heritage Area while allowing for modern development, and we look forward to hearing from the public on what they think in our engagement process. 
 
2. Considering the importance of sustainability, the By-Law allows Heritage property owners to make their older homes more energy efficient, allowing for heat pumps, solar panels and green roofs under certain conditions.
 
3. A Heritage Report is a new requirement for applications to demolish a Heritage Building, change or revoke the designation of a Heritage Building, and any other application as recommended by the appropriate staff member (termed an “Inspector” in the By-Law). 
 
Heritage Reports, used widely in other jurisdictions in Canada, help address the anticipated impacts that the proposed work may have on the heritage value of a building, neighbourhood or streetscape, informing Council and the public on heritage impacts before Council makes a decision on an application.
 
4. We’ve added a public consultation requirement.
 
Currently, development would only require public notice if an application to Council is for a rezoning or a discretionary use.  In the new By-Law, an application to demolish a Heritage Building; amend or revoke a designation, or any other matter where Council so directs would now require public notice.
 
5. The Battery gets its own designation.
 
The Battery neighbourhood is currently within Heritage Area 3.  Staff recommend a new Heritage Area 4 with design standards unique to the Battery neighbourhood. For example, in existing Heritage Areas, windows at the rear of a house are not regulated unless they face a public street. For Heritage Area 4, windows that face St. John’s harbour (even at the rear of a house) are proposed to be regulated, given the importance of maintaining traditional building forms facing the harbour.
 
 
If you want to know more about the new Heritage By-Law, you can read the draft and participate in the online forum at engagestjohns.ca/heritage-bylaw
 
Members of the public are also invited to participate in one of two scheduled virtual public meetings:
  • Wednesday, April 28: 7 - 9:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, April 29: 1 - 2:00 p.m. 
To register, click here. The City will also accept feedback though engage@stjohns.ca or by calling 311.