Ward 5 - 2018 London Municipal Election Candidate Survey

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Architectural Conservancy Ontario - London Region (ACO London) sent an online survey on heritage issues to candidates running for City Council in the upcoming municipal election. The survey asked candidates about their thoughts on issues such as heritage conservation, ‘demolition by neglect’, and adaptive re-use of older buildings. This is the second time ACO London has surveyed local municipal election candidates, the first was for the 2014 election.

Responses received: Stephanie Marentette Di Battista
No response received: Maureen Cassidy, Shiv Chokhani, Shane Clarke, Charles Knott, Randy Warden


Stephanie Marentette Di Battista

Would you consider designating a property with heritage or cultural value against the owner’s wishes? Do you support municipal property tax breaks for heritage properties? Do you support financial assistance and advice to those who seek to conserve, restore, and maintain their heritage properties? Do you support funding, by-laws, and policies that encourage heritage conservation? Please specify any initiatives that you would propose.

Would you consider designating a property with heritage or cultural value against the owner’s wishes?

No. I presently live in a heritage home and many of my neighbours do as well, so I definitely support giving the designation, but I think it has to be voluntary. If there is a particularly special building, I think we should absolutely encourage to owner to elect a heritage designation via positive incentives such as tax breaks, but I do not see how City Council could force that on someone.

Do you support municipal property tax breaks for heritage properties?

Absolutely. It can be really costly to maintain a heritage property because any work completed to the property has to keep the original character of the building. This can be really tricky, for example, if a window is broken or a pipe bursts and some renovation work is needed. This would help to offset that cost.

Do you support financial assistance and advice to those who seek to conserve, restore, and maintain their heritage properties?

Definitely. I know when we first purchased our house, the librarians over at the Service Ontario building were tremendously helpful in providing my husband with a full history of our home and we used that to help with design when we were looking at purchasing furniture or painting walls, that sort of thing. It is also really cool to be able to tell the story of our home to any visitors.

Do you support funding, by-laws, and policies that encourage heritage conservation?

Please specify any initiatives that you would propose.

I would within reason. I think that we need to positively encourage London residents to preserve our heritage. I don't think restrictive legislation is the way to go. I'm a big history dork and so is my spouse (he actually just opened a new pub on Richmond that focuses its decor on local history and is in the process of putting up some really neat local artifacts), so we did not need very much encouragement to be interested in a heritage building. But I also think we need to be respectful of what home or building ownership means and as much as I would love for City Council to encourage London residents to participate in the preservation of our culture and heritage, I would not support a usurping of property rights.

How would you deal with the issue of ‘demolition by neglect’? Are you in favour of the City enforcing property and building standards for all heritage structures, including allowing city by-law inspectors to legally enter empty buildings on a frequent and regular basis to ensure that property and building standards are being upheld? Would you support issuing fines to property owners and developers who allow buildings to be destroyed by non-accidental fire, illegal demolition, or other acts of negligent destruction? Do you agree London should adopt a Heritage Building Protection Plan initiative such as other municipalities have implemented that would require property owners and developers to submit and implement plans to maintain and secure heritage structures throughout development approval processes?

How would you deal with the issue of ‘demolition by neglect’?

I think this is an issue whether we are speaking of a historic building or a more modern one. We presently have bylaws that require properties are kept to a certain standard, such as bylaws prohibiting refuse laying about or what have you. I think we need to enforce that legislation to ensure that all properties throughout our city are maintained to a certain standard. If that does not appear to be occurring, the answer may be to review the bylaws intended to address this and to see if they need to be re-worked to be more effective.

Are you in favour of the City enforcing property and building standards for all heritage structures, including allowing city by-law inspectors to legally enter empty buildings on a frequent and regular basis to ensure that property and building standards are being upheld?

I am in favour of building standards being enforced, but again, I believe we also need to be respectful of property owners. I don't think the solution is to have bylaw officers repeatedly attend at buildings for random inspections and I think that would be a breach of privacy. But if there was a specific concern with a vacant building that was raised such as squatters residing in the building or a pest problem, then I think it would be appropriate for an inspection. I would think that there would need to be a risk to the integrity of the building, a public health and safety problem, or an evident bylaw breach such as the refuse issue I mentioned in a previous answer.

Would you support issuing fines to property owners and developers who allow buildings to be destroyed by non-accidental fire, illegal demolition, or other acts of negligent destruction?

I think this would need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. For example, a non-accidental fire could happen in a circumstance that was completely beyond the control of the building owner, such as someone smashing a jack-o-lantern on a porch on Halloween. I believe that the we should punish acts that are contrary to the law, whether we are speaking of bylaws or provincial or federal legislation.

Do you agree London should adopt a Heritage Building Protection Plan initiative such as other municipalities have implemented that would require property owners and developers to submit and implement plans to maintain and secure heritage structures throughout development approval processes?

Yes I would support this within reason. I would not want to see a requirement in place that would make it impossible for a person or entity to obtain and maintain a heritage building as that would not assist with encouraging people and businesses to be interested in acquiring heritage buildings. That being said, some sort of requirement to demonstrate how a person or company intends to protect the building's heritage features during development would not hurt. I could see this being a helpful tool if there was a proposal to put up a tower with the goal of maintaining a street-level heritage facade, for example.

How would you balance development pressures against the community’s desire to conserve heritage structures and neighbourhoods? How would you encourage the adaptive reuse of London’s built heritage when its original uses are no longer feasible? Do you support, in principle, neighbourhood-specific moratoriums on demolitions while an area is being studied as a potential Heritage Conservation District?

How would you balance development pressures against the community’s desire to conserve heritage structures and neighbourhoods?

I think that our Council needs to focus on intelligent growth. What I mean by that is growth that is done in a collaborative way between the City, the community and developers. There are some neighbourhoods where it might not be feasible to put up a tower, for example, but a series of classically designed townhouses or row houses might be a great option to bring more housing into a community. In other parts of the city, a tower may be the only way to go but there might be a heritage building in the way - the solution there might be to preserve the street-level facade of the building and construct the tower behind it as has been done in other cities. The only way to come up with solutions that allow us to grow and develop as a city in a way that makes sense is to ensure that there is a collaborative process that strikes a balance between growth and preservation of heritage. We cannot shut developers out of the conversation if we want to move forward, but we also cannot shut community members out either as they are in the best position to give feedback on what will make the most sense in a given community.

How would you encourage the adaptive reuse of London’s built heritage when its original uses are no longer feasible?

I think London is already doing a great job of this - there are loads of beautiful heritage mansions that are now too big to be family homes that have been turned into law offices, medical practices or apartments. We also have bigger projects such as the Delta Armories which is a great example of how it is possible to keep the facade of a historical building and implementing modern construction. I would like to see continued development that incorporates heritage structures as much as possible.

Do you support, in principle, neighbourhood-specific moratoriums on demolitions while an area is being studied as a potential Heritage Conservation District?

I think as a temporary measure to re-visit a zoning bylaw, yes, but I don't think you can indefinitely halt development. I think we would also need a reasonable time limit imposed by which to make a decision.

What steps would you champion as a member of Council to ensure that the London Plan’s provisions to protect heritage properties along the BRT routes are implemented?

This is a non-issue for me as I intend to vote no to the current BRT plan if elected and I have the opportunity to do so. If the plan moves forward, I would not support the demolition of any heritage buildings to implement this plan.

Do you plan to incorporate built heritage issues into your campaign platform? How? Please include any additional comments you would like to share.

I am seeking election for Ward 5, which does not really have heritage buildings, so I do not intend to make this a major part of my platform. That being said, I support the preservation of London's heritage and I also support making resources available to assist individuals and businesses that want to do the same. I think we are very fortunate to live in a city with such a great number of historical buildings and we should do what we can to ensure that these historic buildings and neighbourhoods are available for future generations to enjoy and to learn about London's history.


Thank you to those candidates who took the time to complete our survey. For those who did not respond before the survey closed, we welcome your comments.

We encourage all Londoners to attend candidates’ meetings and debates to learn more about their ideas and suggestions on built heritage and other issues. To find out more information about when and where to vote, and the candidates running for Mayor or Councillor visit the City of London’s Elections webpage.

Shawn Adamsson