An appeal by The Concerned Property Owners Group in the proposed Heritage Conservation District (HCD) of downtown Almonte, to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) against the Municipality of Mississippi Mills was withdrawn on Monday, January 16th. The appeal was launched because they felt strongly that proper procedure was not followed, that residents were not properly informed about the implications of designation, that guidelines on how the they would have to comply with the designation were never fully explained and in fact were not available until the public meetings were over. There was no effort made to work with property owners and encourage them to be willing participants in the Heritage process. Concerns over increases in insurance and maintenance costs, downplayed by the consultants and Councillors are now proving to be all too real. Above all there is the reality that the rights of property owners to enjoy to maintain their property according to their wishes would be now placed in the hands of the Heritage Committee.
The decision to withdraw was made after consultation with legal counsel, (who regularly make presentations to the OMB) and their revelation that the process of continuing the appeal would mean a cash outlay of somewhere between 60 and 100 thousand dollars with the possibility of a successful outcome of between 0 and 5%. Not a very lucrative adventure. The OMB does not care if the designation causes the owners hardship, they do not care if their costs go up drastically, they don’t care about potential conflicts of interest and they are not interested in the fact that close to one half of the owners were not in favour of having their properties included. The moral of the story is “keep an eye on your Government because they are slowly whittling away the rights of the individual”.
The final meeting of the Concerned Property Owners Group was held on Monday morning, where the decision was made to terminate operations and to encourage the group to become active members of Pakenham Ramsay Almonte Taxpayers Action Committee. Any further action on the heritage issue will be in the hands of that organization.
Brian Gallagher, President PRATAC.