Recognizing the need for preservation at the municipal level, the Ontario Government established legislation for the preservation of heritage properties in 1974 with the passage of the Ontario Heritage Act. Municipalities were delegated the authority to take an active role in the conservation and preservation of heritage properties found within their boundaries. Specifically, the act enables the municipal council to designate, protect and enhance properties and areas of architectural, historical and contextual value.
In April, 2005, the Ontario Heritage Act (OHA) was strengthened to provide municipalities and the province with enhanced powers to Conserve Ontario's heritage. A number of improvements were made with respect to designation providing a clearer process and better protection for designated properties, including protection from demolition.
In 1996, the Town of Fort Erie established the Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (LACAC) to advise Council regarding heritage conservation measures as set out in the Ontario Heritage Act. Today, the Municipal Heritage Standing Committee (MHSC) (formally LACAC), advises Council on heritage matters.
Since that time, 19 individual properties have been designated under the OHA. In addition, the Ironwood Tree located in Ridgeway Battlefield Park was designated as a Heritage Tree in 2015.
Section 27 of the OHA requires the clerk of every municipality to keep a publicly accessible register of properties that are of cultural heritage value or interest situated in the municipality.
The municipal register of heritage properties must list all properties in the municipality that are designated under Part IV (individual property designation) and Part V (within a designated heritage conservation district) of the Ontario Heritage Act.
For properties designated under Part IV, the municipal register must include:
- a legal description of the property;
- the name and address of the owner; and
- a statement explaining the cultural heritage value or interest of the property and a description of its heritage attributes.
For districts designated under Part V, the municipal register must include a map or description of the area of each district.
The Ontario Heritage Act (subsection 27(1.2)) also allows a municipality to include properties of cultural heritage value or interest that have not been designated in its municipal register.
Designation of heritage properties is a way of publicly acknowledging a property’s value to a community. At the same time, designation helps to ensure the conservation of these important places for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.
The main criticism of a heritage designation is the myth that it will reduce the value of a property. Here are some of the benefits:
- Studies have shown that heritage properties increase in value at the same rate as non-designated properties
- You may have access to heritage grant programs to improve your property
- Heritage staff can help with advice on renovations
- There are rebates available on property taxes through the Town's Heritage Tax Rebate Programs
- There is an increased sense of pride of ownership and civic responsibility
Although there are added steps to demolish or alter a heritage home, if you work with Town staff and understand how to make your application, it should not take much more time than a regular building permit.
Owners of listed properties must give the council of the municipality at least 60 days’ notice of their intention to demolish or remove a building or structure on the property. This allows for the municipality to decide whether to begin a designation process to give long-term protection to the property.
Heritage Tax Rebate Program
In the 2001 Ontario Budget, municipalities were given the ability to establish tax relief programs for owners with properties designated under the Ontario Heritage Act. These programs were set up to encourage the restoration and preservation of heritage buildings. The tax relief must be set between 10 and 40 percent of the taxes levied on the property.
The Town of Fort Erie passed bylaw 2007-204 being to provide "tax refunds or reductions in respect of an eligible heritage property". Eligible heritage properties have been participating in the program since its creation. If your property is designated and you would like to participate in the program, please fill out and submit the following prior to February 28 of the following tax year.
The OHA enables the municipality to establish a municipal heritage committee to advise and assist the council on matters relating to Part IV (Conservation of Property of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest) and Part V (Heritage Conservation Districts) and such other heritage matters as the council may specify by by-law. Where a council has appointed a municipal heritage committee, the council shall consult with its committee on matters legislated by the OHA.
Fort Erie has 19 individual properties that have been designated under the OHA.
The MHSC provides advice and recommendations to City Council and staff regarding heritage permit applications in accordance with the OHA.
To fulfill its mandate the Committee will be familiar with and consider the respective heritage guidelines as well as by-laws designating individual properties under the OHA. The Committee will also consider the Town's Official Plan as well as any other provincial or applicable heritage resource (eg. the Ontario Heritage Tool Kit). Staff will either provide these resources to members or directions to where they can be found.
If you live in a designated heritage home or are located within one of the Town's heritage districts you may require a heritage permit prior to making certain changes to your property.
Typically a heritage permit is required for more major changes to a designated heritage property. For example,
- Construction of a new dwelling
- New porch
- New garage
Interior changes to a building and routine maintenance rarely require a heritage permit.
- If you require a heritage permit your application is submitted to the Planning and Building Services Department.
- The application is reviewed by the MHSC, which makes a recommendation on the application.
- Planning and Building Services then prepares a report to Town Council for consideration when a demolition is proposed. All other heritage permit approvals (as new construction, addition) are considered by the Committee and dealt with by a resolution, which is forwarded to Council for approval.
For any heritage related inquires, please contact:
Neighbourhood Planner/Urban Designer
905-871-1600, ext. 2503