Heritage committee overturns Chair Dunstall’s ruling to delay Main Street East study to Nov.
By Mike Williscraft
Last Tuesday’s Grimsby Heritage Advisory Committee had it all – many updates on key heritage properties, a bumper turnout of town council members and, oh yes, a successful appeal of a decision by the chair to sit on a proposed “first step” of the long-idle Heritage Conservation District Study Area on Main Street East.
The meeting, held on Zoom, included the five members of the committee: Coun. John Dunstall as chair, lay members Olia Jurychuk, Kate Sharrow and Anne Brabant as well as Coun. Dorothy Bothwell and Mayor Jeff Jordan as ex-officio.
Also on the Zoom screen were Councillors Randy Vaine, Dave Kadwell and Kevin Ritchie, with Vaine signing off first to allow Ritchie to tag in so as not to have council form a quorum itself during the meeting. Later, Kadwell signed off and Vaine re-appeared.
The meeting was routine until a Notice of Motion arose as the last item listed on the agenda.
The motion recommended a long-talked-about heritage study for the Main Street East area take the form of a Conservation District Study (HCD). This was suggested, said Bothwell, because this format has “more teeth” than the Conservation Heritage Landscape study which was added in a possible direction for the area during budget deliberations in February.
Eventually, the motion was passed 4-1 with Dunstall being the only dissenting vote, but not before considerable turmoil and debate.
Dunstall intially received Bothwell’s Notice of Motion (NoM) and acknowledged it would be dealt with at the next Heritage Committee meeting. At that point, Bothwell presented a motion to waive the Town’s procedural bylaw – which would require a two-thirds majority vote – to allow the matter to be dealt with at that meeting.
“I find it somewhat irregular that you would want to suspend the rules at this point in time. I think it is somewhat out of order. I think this committee is not experienced at suspending rules. They’re volunteers not a council,” said Dunstall.
“I find this very irregular….and I am looking at the clerk to see if this is appropriate at this point in time.”
As the clerk was reviewing the Town’s policy, Bothwell explained the circumstances.
“Chair Dunstall, the reason it is being brought forward on short notice is because I was expecting to see something on the heritage agenda on the Main Street East study, considering it was on the “bring forward” for Q4,” said Bothwell.
“Our next meeting is not until the end of November when you’re in the end of Q4 and there has been absolutely no discussion with the Heritage Committee on the Main Street East study. With that gap, I felt it expedient and prudent that we get this moving because it had been committed to in Q4 we’re at the end of Q4.”
Clerk Sarah Kim told Dunstall the Town’s bylaw states rules of procedure can be waived “where it is deemed is necessary to not delay the consideration”.
In those instances, a NoM may be considered immediately.
“So I turn it over to the chair to determine if you deem that is necessary to not delay the consideration,” said Kim.
With that, Dunstall refused to allow the motion, offering a decision to hold over the NoM until the November meeting.
That decision did not sit well with committee member Olia Jurychuk, who asked that wording about the delay be read again.
“We’ve had long meetings before and I, personally, would not mind discussing this,” Jurychuk said.
Kim read the motion again, and brought in Antonietta Minichillo, Grimsby’s director of planning, who noted staff are working on a report to highlight the differences between the two study options – the cultural heritage option and the heritage district option. She said staff wanted to seek clarification from council on that.
Bothwell noted the motion offered was non-binding and provided an opinion from the body which was created to give council direction on matters of heritage.
Dunstall concluded waiting was the best option.
“So, as the chair of this committee, I think it wise to leave this until next meeting. There’s no emergency. November is still part of the fourth quarter. I think at this time there has to be some work done on it. I will have the clerk put this on our next agenda,” said Dunstall.
Jurychuk told Dunstall that if everything in heritage was done based on if it was an emergency or not, the committees would would always take a back seat.
“I would just like to go on the record. Heritage is never an emergency when it is being compared against a burning building or a baby screaming in a hospital, right?” said Jurychuk.
“Heritage is always at the bottom of the list because there is always something more urgent. The fact of the matter is that we, as a committee, have been trying to advance the now-five-year-old Cultural Heritage Landscape (CHL) work that’s been done and actually put some teeth into it.”
“We made some progress. Then there was a nice tennis game by council trying to misconstrue words about districts and other types of studies that provide less protection and, frankly, this just seems to be another way to create another gap to not deliver on something that we, as a committee, are mandated to do for the council. I would like to go on record as saying I don’t really understand the need for delaying this and, sure, it is not an emergency when you compare it against the examples I cited before.”
At that point, Bothwell noted the decision of the chair could be appealed, which Kim confirmed.
In a 4-1 recorded vote, with Dunstall being the only dissenting vote, the decision to delay was overturned and discussion on the motion was allowed.
Dunstall used his position as chair to recognize Ritchie to address the committee although he did not signal in any visible way that he wanted to speak. As he spoke, Minichillo nodded throughout.
“Sitting here listening, our planner saying there are two differences between a Heritage Culture Study and a Heritage Culture District and the motion that I am hearing now is for a Heritage Cultural District. I don’t know how this committee has authorization to direct staff to work concurrently until it goes to the council,” said Ritchie.
“No committee has, even individual councillors have, the ability to direct staff to work on something unless it is provided by council. So I am very curious as to how this is playing out. This committee, in my opinion, does not have the authorization, one, to determine that it is a Heritage Culture District and, two, to direct staff.”
After the initial ruling was overturned, Bothwell explained the motion.
The initiative is one of the key priorities that the Heritage Committee had determined was very important and opting for a Heritage Conservation District is best “because that is going to give it the greatest and most protection which is currently under siege.”
“The planning director has stated we need to make it a priority for areas we need to protect. This motion gives us the ability to not only better put in those protections but it also allows us to develop the guidelines and structure we need for this very important area,” said Bothwell.
“CHLs don’t provide the amount of protection that a HCD does. This motion is only a recommendation at this point. It is not saying we’re defining anything and setting all the terms. It’s just recommending to the committee of the Whole that the draft be considered, to designate the Main Street East Conservation District Study in accordance with Section 40.1 and that the draft bylaw be circulated to staff – the intention is that staff look at it for comments – to be considered while concurrently COTW can consider it. This motion is only being put forward to take action on something this council has decided is a strategic priority and is important to it and is in the budget. It has been delayed now for almost a year.”
The motion was approved 4-1 with Dunstall being the only dissenting vote.