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Conservancy group doesn't want BIA to vote on heritage matters

Conflict between BIA and heritage advisory committee leads to council recommending a review of town boards and committee structure
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Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

Collingwood Downtown BIA's role as a voting member on the Collingwood Heritage Committee is under fire from one conservancy group who believes the interests of the two conflict.

The criticism was raised again at the development and operations services standing committee meeting on Monday night, when a letter from the Collingwood chapter of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) was included on the agenda.

According to the letter, signed by Margaret Mooy, ACO branch president and Richard Lex, past president, the heritage committee is made up of members appointed by council, whereas the BIA is made up of representatives elected by its approximately 400 membership of business owners and managers.

“The BIA’s role or mandate is certainly not to look at issues through the lens of the Ontario Heritage Act,” wrote the ACO. “Given these often conflicting roles, we believe that it is inappropriate for the BIA to have such a dominant role on the [heritage committee] – a role that includes a voting position on the committee.”

The letter reminds councillors that the BIA representative is not vetted by council as to his or her background and suitability to be on the heritage committee.

“In order to assure that council receives independent advice on the Ontario Heritage Act and on other heritage matters and to avoid an actual or perceived conflict of interest, we ask that council return the BIA representative on the heritage committee to its original role of a non-voting member,” wrote the ACO.

Penny Skelton, chair of the BIA, and currently the BIA representative on the heritage committee attended the development and operations meeting to speak to the issue.

“It’s true, we don’t always agree. But it’s very important we share our concerns with an equal voice,” said Skelton. “Both committees have the best interest of the downtown at heart. It is important that the BIA continues to represent the buildings, the business owners and the strength of both.”

“We need to ensure that new builds are respectful of the heritage guidelines, and not necessarily be a throwback to the 1900s,” she added.

The committee voted unanimously to recommend council request staff to review organization and representation on all town boards and committees.

“You can certainly see how a review of the committee structure and organization is due,” said Coun. Deb Doherty.

The recommendation will need to be ratified at the next meeting of council.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 12 years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood, County of Simcoe and education.
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