Heritage Conservation Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the purpose and benefits of Heritage Conservation?
Heritage Conservation through such efforts such as Heritage Conservation Districts, Heritage Designations or Municipal Heritage Register listing is of local, provincial and national importance. Fundamentally, heritage conservation is significant because it recognizes and preserves pieces of our history for both present and future generations to cherish. Besides physically preserving buildings, landscapes, landmarks and other features, the history of a community can be uncovered during heritage research. Further, the cultural heritage value of the community is enhanced through heritage conservation, often triggering the desirability of the community, increasing property values and potentially attracting tourism dollars to the area.
In general, there is a full circle effect of positive outcomes with good heritage conservation. As more elements in our community become identified for their heritage value, it can spark the interest for the conservation of others. The more elements designated, listed in the Municipal Heritage Register, or within a Heritage Conservation District, the more protected our cultural heritage becomes through interim protection from demolition for example. This also has environmental advantages by reducing the need to exhaust resources for the construction of another structure and reduces the amount of construction waste in landfill sites.
2. What are the differences between listed properties on the Municipal Heritage Register, Heritage Designation and Heritage Conservation Districts?
The Municipal Heritage Register contains legal descriptions, addresses and statements regarding the cultural heritage value or interest of properties approved by Council to be included on the Register. Visit the Municipal Heritage Register page to view the Register.
There are two types of properties listed in the Municipal Heritage Register: non-designated (often referred to as listed properties) and designated properties. Designation can apply to individual properties or to all properties within a specified neighbourhood or area, known as a Heritage Conservation District (HCD).
The following table provides a general comparison of designated, listed (non-designated) properties and Heritage Conservation Districts:
Regulated by a municipal by-law containing “Reasons to Designate” (a list of elements and attributes that influence the cultural heritage value of the property that are to be preserved)
Regulated by a municipal by-law containing “Reasons to Designate”
Not regulated by a municipal by-law but must be approved by City Council for inclusion on the Municipal Heritage Register
Protected from demolition or unsympathetic alterations to significant heritage features
Protected from demolition or unsympathetic alterations to significant heritage features (limited to external features unless a specific property is also designated individually in which case property specific features are protected)
Interim protection from demolition in which council must be given 60 days notice of any intention to demolish or remove a building/structure
3. How does a property become designated?
In Windsor, there are several steps to designation. The process may take up to six months to complete. Usually, written request for designation is required in order for the process to begin. Any citizen can initiate or recommend a designation request. The Windsor Heritage Committee will then consult with the owners of properties proposed for designation and will investigate potential heritage significance. If the property is considered worthy of designation, the statement of "Reasons for Designation" is prepared by the Heritage Planner. The owner is encouraged to participate in this important step by providing as much information as possible. Some help is available from the Municipal Archives, museums and the registry office. Reasons for Designation include reference to specific exterior features which should be conserved or restored (i.e. trim, masonry, windows, roofs, porches and hardware), and will also outline the historical significance of the property. The Heritage Planner then reports to the Windsor Heritage Committee which makes recommendations to Council for its decision. If Council approves, a notice of intention to designate is publicized in the newspaper to determine if there are objections. If no objections are made, Council then passes a by-law and informs the Ontario Heritage Trust.
4. How is a designated site marked?
Subject to available funds, the Windsor Heritage Committee provides a small plaque bearing the date of the property's original construction. The plaque will be issued only if the owner agrees to have it displayed on the front of the property for public recognition. The media are usually advised of new designations.
5. Does designation restrict an owner from making changes to their property?
Yes, designation can restrict an owner from making changes to their property, specifically those defined in the designation by-law. The by-law contains “Reasons to Designate”, a list of elements within the property that are of importance for conservation and thus may not be altered without consultation with the Windsor Heritage Committee (WHC). The WHC is an advisory committee that provides recommendation for City Council who have the authority to approve or deny an alteration.
Other alterations outside those listed in the designation by-law may be subject to consultation with the WHC or City Heritage Planner to ensure that said alteration does not negatively affect conservation efforts. Often times, the WHC or Heritage Planner are able to recommend alternatives that are satisfactory for both the owners and the intent of the designation. Although dependent on the situation, alterations are generally permitted if they do not affect the cultural heritage value of the property and are deemed reversible (where original elements can be reinstated if desired in the future).
6. Do owners of designated properties need permission for general maintenance?
General maintenance on features not listed in the “Reasons to Designate” typically does not require permission. Property owners within a Heritage Conservation are provided with guidelines which will need to be adhered to in order to ensure heritage standards are consistent throughout the district.
7. Does designation require property owners to pay expansive restoration costs to restore their property to its original appearance?
No, property owners are not required to restore their designated properties to its original appearance, but rehabilitation is recommended. The WHC understands that heritage properties may have experienced changes over time. The term restoration implies that owners are required to remove any alterations or additions to the designated property to return it to its original design. Numerous times these types of alterations or additions have become part of the property’s history and thus contribute to its cultural value; such removal is not usually the intention of designation. Therefore, property owners are encouraged to rehabilitate their property by preserving and conserving its significant features. Regular maintenance is encouraged so that major rehabilitation projects can be avoided. Although property owners may have to spend more than the least expensive option to repair important heritage attributes, the City of Windsor has developed the Community and Built Heritage Fund, financial incentive programs in the form of grants and loans to help alleviate costs associated with rehabilitation.
8. Are only those features specified in the “Reasons to Designate” eligible for the Community or Built Heritage Fund?
Other features not listed in the “Reasons to Designate” may be eligible for the Community or Built Heritage Fund if such features contribute to maintaining the listed features. Property owners wanting to restore missing features originally part of the property may be considered for funding as well. In addition, funding can be used for the payment of studies pertaining to rehabilitation projects if related work follows. Furthermore, special projects involving non-designated properties may be considered for the Built Heritage Fund.
Owners intending to use the Fund should contact the Windsor Heritage Committee to discuss their eligibility and learn about the application process. Visit the Heritage Preservation Incentives page for more information.
9. Does designation prevent property owners from adding a new addition?
Some new additions may be added to designated properties. In fact, they may be necessary, particularly to commercial designated properties that may need to be retrofitted to adhere to today’s accessibility or fire safety standards. Nevertheless, a proposed addition or alteration should not affect the integrity of the heritage property. For an addition proposal, City Administration may work with property owners to develop alternatives such as permitting an addition at the rear of a building as opposed to the front facade. Additions should also be made reversible and thus property owners may be required to design or construct such proposals in a manner that protects original features of the property. For instance, if an opening in an exterior bricked wall needs to be created to fit a door, the bricks should be removed carefully, labelled and stored in a safe location; permitting the wall to be restored if desired in the future. Further, new additions must be distinctive from the original building as not to imitate original features.
10. Does designation delay the approval process for building permits?
Sometimes. Typically, development applications are circulated to the City’s Heritage Planner to determine if the proposal would have significant heritage impacts to the applicant’s property. If not, the approval processes should not be delayed. If there is a significant heritage impact, the project will require additional approvals, from City Council for example. It is most effective to plan ahead when considering the application for a building permit on a heritage significant property. Notifying the Heritage Planner of what is being proposed will help to access any heritage impacts and possible alternatives ahead of time so when it is time for a building permit, the process is timelier.
11. Who makes the final decisions in matters pertaining to designation?
The Planning, Heritage and Economic Development Standing Committee (PHEDSC) is an advisory committee that acts as a resource and provides recommendations to council for topics pertaining to heritage. Taking into consideration the recommendations of the standing committee and of the public, Council makes the ultimate decision. If Council’s decision is not satisfactory for property owners, they have the opportunity to appeal to the Conservation Review Board that provides further recommendation to Council after a formal hearing process. At that time, Council has the authority to approve or deny the recommendations again.
12. Can a designated building be demolished?
Under subsection 34(1) of the Ontario Heritage Act, designated properties shall not “demolish or remove a building or structure on the property or permit the demolition or removal of a building or structure on the property unless the owner applies to the council of the municipality in which the property is situate and receives consent in writing to the demolition or removal”. Council also has the authority to set any specified terms and conditions based on their decision. If Council’s decision is not satisfactory for property owners, they have the opportunity to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The OMB decisions must be adhered to.
13. If a designated building is destroyed by fire or another type of incident, do property owners need to rebuild or replicate the prior structure?
Owners are not obligated to replicate or rebuild any lost heritage attributes in the event that a designating building is destroyed.
14. Does designation increase insurance premiums?
Designation should not increase insurance premiums as it does not place any additional requirements on the insurer. It is up to the discretion of property owners to add additional coverage, such as “replacement cost” coverage, for important features of the property in case of damage. This can be done whether or not the property is designated.
15. Does designation affect the sale of properties?
Anyone can buy or sell a heritage property; accordingly heritage designation should not prevent the sale of properties. In fact, a province-wide study of 3,000 designated properties in various communities in Ontario has revealed that heritage designation tends to have a positive impact on property values and can decrease the time a property is on the market even during market downturns.
16. Do designated properties need to be open to the public?
No, property owners are not obligated to have their properties open to the public. They can however, on their own initiative, participate in programs such as “Doors Open” which grants the public entry to explore important properties on the date the event is held.
The City of Windsor’s Municipal Heritage Register does list the addresses of listed and designated properties and is publicly accessible on the City website. The Register helps to identify those properties that are of cultural heritage value and do not include personal property owner information.
17. What can citizens do to prevent buildings of cultural heritage from being demolished?
Citizens can play a large role in the success of a heritage conservation effort. For properties listed or designated in the Municipal Heritage Register but have applied for demolition permits, members of the public can present reasons they disprove demolition to council. In addition, if a property is neither listed or designated in the Municipal Heritage Register but is of cultural heritage value, citizens can recommend that the property be placed on the Municipal Heritage Register to City Council. If done in a timely manner, the Municipal Heritage Register can provide interim protection in which council must be given 60 days notice of any intention to demolish or remove a building/structure.
18. Are non-designated properties given recognition?
The Windsor Heritage Committee presents "Built Heritage Awards" annually to owners of heritage buildings that are on Windsor's Heritage Register but not designated. These sites may be worthy of designation, or may simply contribute to the character of the street through their surviving heritage features. Heritage Awards are honorific and have no legal status.
Heritage Resources Used for the FAQ:
For general information, call 311. For detailed inquiries, contact us at:
Planning & Building Services Department
Suite 320, 350 City Hall Square West
Windsor, Ontario, Canada N9A 6S1
Phone: (519) 255-6543
Fax: (519) 255-6544
Windsor Heritage Committee