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.

Hamilton Artist Update 18: Heritage Permit Review Subcommittee

Sorry for the long delay, but was sick for the past few days.

The issue facing the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) is whether they are going to step up to the plate and protect designated heritage buildings that speak to a time when Ancaster was known for its mineral waters.

Despite the significant decay of the structure, the Hermitage still sparks the imagination of visitors for a time when we were connected to the land and the seasons. Over the past two months, I have made several drawings (session 1, session 2) of the building over 2-3 hour sittings, and dozens of individuals and groups have told me how much they love the place.

What the HCA is proposing is the demolition of a heritage site that they are responsible for maintaining. A four foot wall does not save any of the designated architectural features. The only reason they are willing save a four foot wall is the cost to demolish completely the building is about the same.

The only thing more outrageous than the HCA proposal is the Heritage Permit Review Sub-committee willingness even to consider their application. The committee’s job is to protect designated heritage buildings, not to ease their path to destruction.

There was very little discussion about how the HCA should change their plans so that Georgian symmetry of the surviving building is preserved, nor saving the remains of second floor Italianate windows, or French windows below that once allowed access to a long gone veranda; nor saving the surviving ring beam that was once supported by corbels.

It appears that the only people on the committee who seem understand the purpose of the committee is to save heritage is Joseph Zidanic and Rebecca Beatty. Mr. Zidanic was particularly effective in pointing out that the HCA has owned the property since 1972 and commissioned many reports over the past 40 years, but they have done little more than quick fixes.

It times for the HCA to set up to plate and start properly taking care of the Hermitage; even if the Board doesn’t consider it part of their strategic mission of watershed management.

(The above comments were first published on the Raise the Hammer website).

Chris Erskine

chriserskineartist@gmail.com

@erskinec

Drawing at the Hermitage – Part 2

After a winter of working inside my studio, I just love getting outdoors and drawing or painting from life.  Time pressures and the changing weather conditions creates a certain amount of tension – almost like a game show.  Will he get it done in time?  How bad will the results be?

The other advantage of drawing on location is the people.  I am always surprised by the number of people who will stop and look at your art.  The feedback is always positive, and for someone who works in the isolation of the studio, this is very rewarding.

While it doesn’t show much, here is part two of my efforts to capture the soon to be reduced Hermitage Ruins in Ancaster, Ontario.

Chris Erskine

chriserskineartist@gmail.com

@erskinec

Hamilton Artist Update for April 21, 2014.

A weekly review of art related activities by artist, Chris Erskine.  Updates are posted every Monday.

This week:

  1. Heritage Decision-Making Questioned
  2. Another Demolition in the Works
  3. Historical TH&B Bridge Prepares to Come Down
  4. Putting Hamilton into Updates
  5. Sounds Better – new equipment

 

  1. Heritage Decision-Making Questioned

The Durand Neighbourhood Association questioned why the Heritage Permit Review Sub- Committee’s decision to allow the partial demolition of the James Street Baptist Church in Hamilton Ontario was not reviewed and approved by the Hamilton Municipal Heritage Committee and Hamilton City Council.  The Heritage Committee argued that the Permits Committee had the authority to delegate decision-making to staff.

 

  1. Another Demolition in the Works

The Hamilton Conservation Authority is seeking the partial demolition of the Hermitage Ruins in Ancaster, Ontario.  The HCA wants to demolish the surviving walls to a height of three feet.  The request goes before the Heritage Permit Review Sub-Committee this Wednesday (April 23, 2014).

 

  1. Historical TH&B Bridge Prepares to Come Down

The City of Hamilton is preparing to demolish the last surviving TH&B Bridge.  The Bridge was built in 1894 and provided street access over the railway line that cuts through the Durand and Corktown neighbourhoods.

 

  1. Putting Hamilton into Updates

To make the Updates more unique, I have changed the title of the Updates from Monday’s Artist Update to Hamilton Artist Update.  Hopefully, this will make it easier to locate within Google and Youtube searches.

  1. Sounds Better – new equipment

As anyone who follows my blog knows, good quality sound has been a challenge.  This past week, I started using the Rode shotgun microphone with a dead-cat wind screen.  The results seem fairly good and will help with outdoor location shootings.