Heritage in trees and buildings

Thanks  to two excellent presentations during the past two weeks I have had my eyes & ears opened to some new concepts & issues about heritage—the valuing of it, the respecting of it, the learning from it.

On 3/20 the Historical Society hosted a presentation about Heritage Trees.  Yes trees.

What is a heritage tree?  Factors are numerous including its physical characteristics:  age, health, type/specimen; and its role in the cultural story of its location, its history.  Imagine a tree that is not only on the Carrying Place Trail but was a marker for the traders and missionaries and others using the trail!

At our recent 3/21 Council meeting there was an excellent informative presentation by the Heritage Committee.  A couple insights.

Because there has been so little development in King to date, there is a large number of buildings (>500) with potential heritage value.

Problem:  the heritage value of these buildings is not defined and the processes in place to assess heritage value of each creates confusion, fear and crisis.

Confusion for the public:  even during the 3/21 formal presentation and ensuing question & answer session, people tripped over asking whether building XX was designated on the heritage registry or whether it was undesignated on the heritage registry; and once the correct status was determined, the implications of its status was not clear.

Fear for the public:  I want to buy building XX.  Is it suddenly going to be slapped onto the heritage registry which will stop me from renovating?

Crisis:  If it is not on the registry, the volunteer Heritage Committee only has 10 days to assess heritage value if an application for demolition is made.

Our budget and business plan for 2011 must include a heritage professional to create and execute a strategy to enable us to leverage these buildings—they are our history, they can be one of the elements for King to be a unique special place in the future.   Secondly, we need to get very clear in our Community Plans as to how we want to see Heritage buildings being integrated into the living fabric of our communities.

For the record:

i)  The impact of an undesignated building being on the heritage registry is that an application for demolition triggers a 60 day window (versus a 10 day one) for review of heritage value.

ii) Designation does not mean that interior renovation is prohibited.  It does not mean that additions are impossible.  It does not mean you must install period windows.

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