Letter to City Manager – Re: James St. Baptist

May 21, 2014

Attn: City Manager

I wish to express my concern over the recent approval process for a partial demolition of the James Street Baptist Church.

It is my understanding that the Heritage Permit Review Sub-Committee recommended the granting of a demolition permit based on the Developer fulfilling a number of conditions.

This Committee (made up of community volunteers), then directed City Staff to ensure that the conditions were fulfilled before allowing the partial demolition by the Developer.

It is also my understanding that the Director of Planning approved the permit without the decision coming before the Heritage Committee or City Council.  Apparently, there is a committee bylaw that allows for minor alternations to heritage designated buildings to be addressed by City Staff.

It is my view that recommendations by the Permits Sub-Committee (an advisory committee made up of community volunteers) should have their decision reviewed and approved by the Heritage Committee, the Economic Planning Committee, and then by City Council. I believe my view of the decision making process is supported by the mandate descriptions of each of these committees.

If my information is correct, then a bylaw intended for minor decisions was used to make a significant impact to a heritage designated building.  I do not feel volunteers and city staff should be placed in such a decision-making role.  Such decisions are the responsibility of elected city leaders.

Finally, I am concern that no elected officials reviewed the efforts of City Staff to ensure that the conditions were addressed.

While I support the James Street Baptist Church project, because the City deemed the building to be unsafe, I am concern over future demolition requests.  Elected officials could easily be bypassed by City Staff on such important issues as the Hermitage Ruins or the Kerr Buildings.

I would appreciate you looking into this situation, and if required, ensured that good decision-making procedures are established.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

About Chris Erskine

Visual Artist and independent film-maker. Try to post summaries of my artistic activities once per month. View all posts by Chris Erskine

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