Bagot Street heritage home faces possible demolition

By Robert Washburn

[singlepic id=7 w=320 h=240 float=right]A historic house on Bagot Street could face the wrecker’s ball, if it is deemed structurally unsound after a fire last spring gutted the building, the town’s heritage committee decided Wednesday night.
The town’s heritage planner, Stephen Ashton, said the Ontario Vernacular Cottage, at 139 Bagot Street, built in 1875, was seriously damaged inside the building. The cost to repair is estimated to be approximately $197,000, according to a report brought before the committee. However, the situation is more complex because the report states the building did not have sufficient insurance to cover the cost of repair.
There is no town bylaws demanding heritage property owners purchase sufficient insurance to repair historic buildings, Ashton said. Often older buildings outside the Greater Toronto Area are priced significantly less than the replacement value. This means a person who purchases a historic building often gets greater value than the purchase price, he explained. Hence, the insured value does not match the replacement costs.

Also, some historic homeowners purchased the house many years ago and fail to keep the insurance policy current with market values.

“This is a big problem in rural areas,” he said.

Another issue is the lack of any legislation that requires historic homeowners to replace the building with a replicate. If the building is demolished, then any style of building could go on the property. Bagot Street is part of the Downtown Heritage District, a designation meant to protect older, historic buildings.

The town must deal with the demolition application within 90 days, which would be July 19, 2011.

The committee has recommended the town get an engineering report paid for by the property owner. If the building is unsound, then the permit should be issued. However, the committee recommended, if the building can be repaired, the permit should not be issued and it should be fixed.


5 thoughts on “Bagot Street heritage home faces possible demolition

  1. Cobourg’s built heritage is one of the town’s main assets. It draws people here – to live, visit, or open a business. Like the couple who have just opened the Starlight Cafe on King St. – visited from Montreal, fell in love with the town and decided to move here and open their restaurant. There are of course, as Rob Washburn has pointed out, the right-wingers who believe in property rights at all costs. Thank goodness that we have zoning, and also that this property was not one of the R4 ‘hot spots’ which could be replaced by a small apartment building. As Rob has also pointed out, the creation of heritage districts does not just happen overnight and there is a considerable amount of consultation with the residents. If there was not the protection – and very limited it is – of the provincial Heritage Act there would be nothing to stop us losing all our built heritage, one building at a time. And when it is gone, it is gone.
    I do have a couple of questions concerning the insurance. How come the property was apparently so under-insured? Our insurance company wastes no time in telling us that we have to up the insured value, and therefore our premium, and the dire consequences of not doing so. Also, I wonder what the quoted cost of repair covered – full replacement cost as it was before? Heritage designation, either by district or individually, only covers the external features of the building. Internal features are only included when specifically itemised. I noticed that Council were careful to ask for the engineering report to cover ‘reasonable’ repairs. I.e. they were specifically saying there was no need to replicate any heritage features that might have existed inside the building.

  2. I’m not so sure the fact that the house was rented out makes a difference to the heritage rules. My question is whether the owner bought the property before or after the area was designated. If it was before, and the rules were imposed on the place by virtue of the designation, then I think he can do what he wants. If he bought after it was designated, then he knew the restrictions and should be bound by the rules. Just because he’s affluent has no bearing on the situation. We’re talking Heritage, and that’s all.

    Further, there are many Heritage properties occupied by tenants, and that makes no difference. Shouldn’t here either.

  3. Well actually, Deb, the property owner was not living there. This rather small Ontario cottage was actually a triplex and is a rental owned by someone who lives in a rather expensive part of town and owns several rental properties, I think most if not all in heritage districts. Apparently there were very regular noisy parties. Now, I was young once and had police called to a noisy party we were having back in Toronto, but we had parties once a year, not just about every week. Feel any different about it now?

  4. I remember when the Heritage District was put in place in the 1990s. There were lots o public meetings and great debate. Points like the ones you are raising were made at the time. And, the issues you raise a critical ones. But the question is a broader one, as well. Do people who buy heritage property or environmentally sensitive property and so forth take on special responsibilities individually or should the larger community bear these costs? One extreme is the right-wing landowner movements who say government has no bearing on private property.
    There is another question sitting inside the Heritage District. Should this kind of designation be forever or should it be revisited on a regular basis. Bagot Street has some of the oldest homes in Cobourg. Preserving our past should be a priority. And, people buy these homes knowing the designation. It can be easily argued the case is one of buyer beware.
    Cobourg has lost many beautiful buildings to the wrecker’s ball.

  5. I’m starting to wonder where Heritage rules stop and individual property owners’ rights start. One unanswered question is whether the owners had any choice in being designated as part of the Heritage District. Was the decision simply imposed on residents of this area?

    Surely any property owners already living there when the District was created should not have to bear the burden of extra costs like additional insurance, or a requirement to pay for an engineering report that the Heritage Committee wants. If they want a report, they should pay for it. And the home owner should have the right to dispose of the property as their circumstances dictate without a committee having the power to decide for them.

    If a person buys a property already included in the designated Heritage District, then they are properly on the hook for whatever rules are in place. That’s fair, but I’m not sure that’s the case here. More information is needed to come to a reasonable decision for this homeowner, and for the Town too.

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