SACKVILLE, N.B. – Citing it as weak and ineffective, town officials have recommended scrapping the community’s heritage bylaw.
Sackville councillor Megan Mitton revealed earlier this month during council’s regular meeting that the town is proposing to repeal its heritage bylaw, saying the legislation wasn’t working and “achieving very little in terms of heritage conservation and preservation.”
The proposal will come forward to a public hearing for residents’ views on June 11 at 7 p.m. in town council chambers.
The recommendation comes after a comprehensive five-month review of the heritage program, which includes the bylaw and its administration.
In his monthly heritage report to council, Jamie Burke, the town’s senior manager of corporate projects and interim heritage officer, pointed out that during the course of the review, there was not a single heritage permit application or request submitted. In fact, over the course of the year, there were no heritage permits issued by the heritage officer or heritage board and only one $5,000 heritage grant was issued in the past three years.
He said the bylaw, which was first enacted in 2010 and then amended in 2016, takes a “very elementary attempt” in regulating heritage, placing more focus on the appearance of the streetscape rather than traditional heritage regulation.
Burke also noted that the bylaw has been difficult to administer because of the legislative framework from which it operates; and it has also been challenging to recruit volunteers to serve on the heritage board. This challenge has grown over the past few years, particularly following the contentious months after JN Lafford Realty Inc. applied for a permit to demolish the Sackville United Church, during which more than half a dozen members of the heritage board resigned.
Burke said there has been limited community support for the town’s heritage program, and “this change is felt to better represent the views of our community.”
If the bylaw is to be repealed, the heritage board would be dissolved and the two designated heritage conservation areas in Sackville’s downtown would be eliminated. This means that property owners in those areas on Bridge Street, Main Street and York Street would no longer have to apply for a heritage permit if they want to alter the exterior appearance of their properties or demolish a building.
Mayor John Higham agreed that the bylaw has not been as effective as initially hoped, and “there’s been frustration with how it’s been operationalized for quite some time.”
“It didn’t seem to us that this was doing much good quite frankly and we looked at what some of the other options would be at this point,” said Higham.
Burke explained that, within its consideration of the repeal of the bylaw, it is being suggested the town focus its attention and resources on enhancing programs to support redevelopment of heritage properties through their appearance and maintenance. The town will also continue putting its support behind the Tantramar Heritage Trust, whose mandate it is to promote the preservation of heritage resources in the region.