65 Ward Street

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The Facts

The following are details I have gathered from the public record:

  • Southbridge purchased the property – which was not designated but on a review list – in 2015, with the intent to develop.
  • Southbridge submitted its proposal to develop which triggered the process that brought a historical designation possibility before council.
  • Consistent with the town’s (and community’s) strategic plan, council voted unanimously for the intent to designate April 11, 2018.
  • Southbridge met with town representatives, to seek development plans that would consider historical relevance. These meetings resulted in a lack of conciliation — solution finding stalled, and designation was punted to the Conservation Review Board.
  • The property is slated to be reviewed by the CRB soon.
  • The property is likely to be of significant historical value (even Southbridge thinks so), and may end up in the same category of national significance as our Capitol Theatre. For a small town to have two such properties is incredibly rare.
  • Last night a majority vote of Council was required to reconsider the intent to designate this building, which was not achieved.
  • Incoming council will inherit the continuance of the designation process..

What’s next?

Three possible outcomes lay ahead:

  1. The building is NOT designated as historically important. Southbridge moves forward with building proposal.  All interested parties recognize that this outcome is unlikely.
  2. The building is historically designated and Southbridge leaves Port Hope to find development elsewhere.  This outcome is possible but not in the best interests of Port Hope, nor arguably Southbridge.
  3. The building is historically designated and Southbridge develops a long term care facility on this or an alternate site in Port Hope.  This outcome is possible and in the best interests of Port Hope as it constitutes a win for both “people” and “buildings”.

My Position.

I believe that success is still achievable for both sides where the third outcome is achieved.  What is required is that both Port Hope and Southbridge remain at the table working together towards the common goal, whether it is achieved at 65 Ward Street or elsewhere in Port Hope.  

Mediation training has taught me that solutions that pitting one side against the other leads to losses for both – the “people” vs. “buildings” mindset will not help us. We need to reset our viewpoint to “people” AND “buildings”.  This recognizes the importance of two of Port Hope’s most valuable assets: its citizens and its rich architectural history/significance.  

Port Hope still has the opportunity to reach the best possible solution, specifically keeping the hospital as a historically designated building and facilitating Southbrook to develop a LTC facility in Port Hope. This opportunity must been seized by the next town council. The councillors chosen by Port Hope voters in the forthcoming election will be instrumental in its success and must be prepared to engage both sides and focus on big picture objectives, which include:

  • Developing long term care for seniors in our community
  • Preserving historically significant buildings in Port Hope
  • Assisting Southbridge to avoid unnecessary penalty for a flawed process beyond its control

There is still much work to do on this issue. As a councillor I will be committed to exploring options that prioritize both the building and retaining beds for seniors in Port Hope. Fundamental questions need to be answered before a specific solution can be identified. Are there other design options at 65 Ward Street that will reduce the overall cost of development for Southbridge? Are there funding and/or fundraising opportunities to offset the increased cost to Southbridge for remaining at 65 Ward Street? Are there alternate locations in Port Hope that provide Southbridge will an appropriate location at which to develop a LTC facility?

***—***

Lastly, this situation has highlighted the importance of a project previously shelved and recently revived, being the municipal historical registry. I am pleased that the historical registry is now a priority and will provide future property owners, and our citizens, an assurance that a similar situation is unlikely to arise in the future. I commend the work of the present Council in this regard.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Anthony Jenkins
    Reply

    Good day Miles.

    And good on you for articulating a considered and open minded argument on this important issue. How it is handled and resolved will likely set a precedent for dealing with future development pressure and more.
    By way of clarification of a few points I offer the following information and comments.

    – in March of 2017 Southbridge inquired about the permit process for demolishing the historical hospital buildings at 65 Ward St. Which triggered the motion of intent to designate. Southbridge then filed an application for a permit to demolish the buildings and requested a special meeting of counsil to ask that the motion be deferred. That meeting was held on April 3rd. Counsil agreed to defer. (The April 3rd meeting is available to view on the municipality’s website. These recording of council meetings are an excellent complement to the written public record. This one is a must watch.)
    – The meetings between representatives of Southbridge and Port Hope (excluding elected officials) occurred between the April 3rd and 11th meetings.
    – Subsequent to the April 11 meeting Southbridge, through their employees and other interested parties, filed over 90 objections to this decision to designate. These objections automatically triggered a referral to the Conservation Review Board. The function of the CRB is to review the decision and make a recommendation to council. Their recommendations are non binding. Council will make the ultimate decision on designation.
    – The Hickey-Lees motion to reconsider required a 2/3 or better majority to pass. A technical fine point maybe, but it begs 2 questions. Why did Mayor Sanderson vote when three ‘no’ votes had already been cast? And why did Councillor Hickey bring this motion forward when it never had a chance of passing?
    – This is not a “people vs buildings” issue. Southbridge has characterized it that way but everyone known to me who supports designation also wants to see enhanced Long Term Care in an updated facility in Port Hope. Southbridge has options. The needs of the LTC community (its more than us old folks) will be met regardless. Enhanced LTC has been mandated by the provincial government.
    – The construction or updating of LTC facilities is up to 80% funded by the provincial government. Base operating susidies are $5,000 per month per bed. There are limited grants available for restoration of some provincially designated buildings. There are much more significant grants available for National Historic sites. But, as is often the case, some conditions may apply.

    – What is the”flawed process” beyond Southbridge’ control?

    Thanks again Miles.

    Tony Jenkins

  • Colleen Haley
    Reply

    I must correct you Tony, Southbridge had nothing to do with seniors or people vs buildings, this was totally a grass roots saying, one of several brought up by the residents of Port Hope who came together following that first meeting which many of us who attended left in a state of shock, only to watch the Historic group, gloting with joy in the parking lot. I truly wish people would actually listen, to what we have said we live and work in Ltd and understand the standards, much of the speculation is misleading and wrong
    I for one love our Historic town but I am also a realist. I do hope that the new council will have the skill set to bring a resolution

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