This Monday, July 27 at 6:30 p.m., Meaford Council will consider two amendments that will heavily impact Meaford’s historic downtown.
The amendments will increase the allowable height of several buildings on Sykes Street from four storeys to five storeys – 11 metres to 17 metres. This is an increase of 6 metres or 19.7 feet – more than 50% higher than is currently allowed.
The amendments also set the stage for the demolition of half a block in the historic centre, from Simply Unique to the Fabric Shoppe.
These changes are being recommended in order to allow a new development on Sykes Street, which incorporates underground parking. They go against ALL of the planning documents Meaford has prepared in the past 10 years, including the 6-month-old Heritage Conservation District Plan. If these amendments are approved, the precedent will nullify the Heritage Conservation District Plan. ALL of downtown will be at the whim of development.
ACO Meaford, Meaford’s branch of the Architectural Conservancy Ontario, has consulted preservation architects and tradespeople. All have assured us that these buildings can and should be saved and incorporated into the new development – in accordance with Meaford’s Heritage Conservation District Plan.
Whatever you feel about the proposed development, please attend the Council meeting on Monday, July 27 to learn about the importance of this vote in the context of Meaford’s economic future.
PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON TO OTHERS WHO MAY BE INTERESTED IN THIS ISSUE.
Council chambers are located at 157859 7th Line (1 km. south of 15/16).
The downtown should be restored, not torn down and replaced with suburban style buildings. Let me explain using an analogy; a brand new Kia and a vintage 1935 restored Rolls Royce are both cars. But, they are not useful in the same way. The Kia makes a good practical car for commuting. It would be most unpractical to use the vintage Rolls for a daily commute using the 401. The Rolls makes a good car to take to classic car shows, rent out for weddings and events, rent out as a movie prop or show at a museum. The Kia would not attract any attention at a classic car show.
Building suburban, eye sore, type buildings on Meaford’s main street and expecting retail and economic growth is like taking a brand new Kia to a classic car show and expecting to win first prize. Small towns that have vibrant main streets have unique, owner-operated, independent businesses. Restored heritage buildings attract tourism and encourage travelers to stop and look around. That is the only way for a small town to prosper. Small towns can not attract chain stores, franchises, and big box stores. Those types of businesses are in big cities and suburbia for a reason.
Meaford’s downtown is like the Rolls Royce in my analogy. The difference is Meaford’s downtown has not been restored yet. Meaford (the former town of) has great potential to be a tourist destination like Niagara on the Lake, St. Jacobs, Dundas or Creemore if the heritage buildings were restored and the vacant lots were built up with buildings that fit the 19th century look of the town. If the downtown is vibrant there will be more businesses to share the tax burden. There will be more businesses that support the community in areas such as funding soccer and hockey. The population will grow and schools won’t be closed. Knock down the main street and replace it with a glass and stucco eyesore that will never be rented or leased and Meaford will be less than Woodford or Rocklyn.
The council needs to use its means to discourage the demolition and deterioration of the downtown. Downtown property owners should be compelled by law to keep roofs and windows on their buildings or put them up for sale at a fair market value. Vacant and deteriorating buildings should be taxed at a higher rate to discourage landlords from purposely letting them go to ruin to justify tearing them down. And if you think someone will lease a suburban style eye-sore of a building on Meaford’s main street at a high rent then ask yourself, who? The local population won’t support them and tourists don’t stop for ugliness.