Sparks fly as council splits over heritage windows

By Robert Washburn

The replacement of windows to a downtown building turned into a major melee between two groups on council who appear to hold opposing views on heritage Monday night.

Deputy Reeve Stan Frost spearheaded the revolt when an application to replace windows at 15-19 King Street East was rejected. Councillors Miriam Mutton and John Henderson tried to defend a recommendation from the Cobourg Heritage Committee to deny the replacement of street front windows with vinyl, but allow them at the rear of the buildings. The committee wants Chalovich to repair the windows.

The applicant, former Cobourg Mayor Joan Chalovich, was back before council looking to replace a set of windows for the second time in recent weeks. Previously, Chalovich requested a permit to replace windows across the road at 14-16 King Street East, in another building she owns.

“The so-called guidelines are very prescriptive,” Frost said following the meeting. “They only deal with repair. They dismiss, they ignore the issues of affordability, cost, the time it would take to pop windows off and peel the paint off them. All those things are totally ignored.”

The committee also ignores the technical performance issues, he added, meaning the old windows are not as energy efficient as new ones.

Councillor Forrest Rowden agreed, as did Councillor Donna Todd.

The battle came when Frost made similar points during the presentation of the committee’s recommendations. Mutton challenged Frost arguing vehemently he was missing facts. She said window repairs honour the heritage aspect of the appearance. And, the recommendation follows town, provincial and Parks Canada policies.

“A structure has rights,” she said.

Mutton also went on to challenge Frost saying he was flying in the face of the town’s own advisory body. She praised the staff report, calling them the experts, not Frost.

Henderson defended the committee’s decision saying the rear windows are not visible to the streetscape so vinyl does not matter. He also questioned why Frost was not following the recommendation of the committee.

He also pointed out the efforts of town staff to create a heritage window policy that will address the issues Frost and others raise around affordability and appropriate replacements.

Frost argues it is unfair to owners to let others dictate to them what should be done.

“Doesn’t the owner get a voice into what is repairable or not,” he said after the meeting.

While he did not support the motion, he said he supports the committee.

“It is not without a lot of distress that I would act this way,” he said, adding he appreciates the efforts of the committee, but disagrees on this point.

Councillor Larry Sherwin joined with the others to defeat the motion. Mayor Gill Brocanier took a four-minute break while Frost came up with an alternative.

When the meeting was recalled, Frost suggested a permit be issued for all windows, as long as they compliment and fit with the heritage exterior. Rowden, Todd and Sherwin supported him. Mutton and Henderson opposed.

Heritage committee member Gail Rayment said a lack of maintenance means many windows on heritage buildings get painted and repainted until they can no longer be opened. This is why people become frustrated and want new ones, she added.

The new windows often do not have the same look or profile of the originals. Since these do not conform, it ends up not looking historically proper.

Rayment was critical of councillors not following the recommendations.

“They are not fully cognizant of all the circumstances,” she said. “It is frustrating when you try to keep the heritage buildings more or less as they were built,” she said.