Steve Allen could be the city’s poster child for designating heritage property.
Mayor Marianne Meed Ward was talking about the restoration work the Burlington man has done on his designated heritage property the Filman House in Aldershot.
Allen appeared at council’s community planning, regulation and mobility committee meeting yesterday seeking $45,000 in grants and loans that were approved.
“I just want to say a huge shout out to Steve and the work that he is doing. It was absolutely spectacular to see it. When he says, ‘People tried to talk me out of designating,’ there’s a fear in the community about designating properties,” Meed Ward said. “And he didn’t listen to that fear. He charged ahead. He designated. He’s doing exactly what we want him to do.
"We need to support that, and make him our poster child for designating, and run tours through it.”
The approved funds will come from the city’s Community Heritage Reserve Fund (CHF) which was established in 1985. Loans must be repaid in 10 years.
Allen and city staff’s heritage planner and site plan review supervisor John O’Reilly shared details of the historic home built in 1895, located at 327 Townsend Ave.
The 2.5 storey, Queen Anne-style dwelling constructed in red brick was built by the prominent Aldershot farming family, earning it the title, the Joshua Filman House.
The roof profile, chimneys, second-storey arched windows, cornices and decorative brackets distinguish the house from its surroundings and it is considered a landmark in the neighbourhood.
Work done on the home has been on highly visible, exterior elements of the home. The funds are for three different projects, each receiving the maximum $15,000 loan and $15,000 grant. The projects include repainting, woodwork and masonry, removal of asphalt shingles and their replacement with cedar shakes, and copper eaves troughs and downspouts.
O’Reilly said the owner is using quality, historically-appropriate materials, and the total estimated value of all work underway is $362,108. He said, “It’s extremely rare for an owner of a designated house in the city to take on this much work all at once. Previous grant applications have focused on one grant application per year.”
Allen, who grew up in Aldershot and has lived in Burlington for 53 years, calls himself the custodian of the property.
He says he was warned against the heritage designation, but he’s happy he didn’t listen. He appreciated the heritage of the home and enjoyed the stories and personal experiences from people who have visited the home.
Allen says one particular contractor commented: “‘The old girl deserves it’ and we concur.” Allen has opened the property to anyone who wants a tour.
There was some discussion about the staff report that recommended limiting grant/loan applications to $15,000 per property per year. They chose not to include that after arguments were made citing common sense when it comes to renovations that need to be done either simultaneously or within a reasonable time frame.
Ward 3 councillor Rory Nisan said the type of work Allen is doing is exactly what’s needed, and wants to encourage it.
Meed Ward was adamant that the funds should be used for cases just like Allen’s.
“That last piece threw me for a loop there,” she said. “ Why would we want to do that, when it seems to be working really well in this case, not having a cap per property?”
O’Reilly said staff recommended it for financial stability.
The mayor disagreed, adding it makes sense for people to bundle projects. "You get the workers on site; you get the work done faster," she said. "We shouldn’t be determining or dictating to people the order in which they have to choose what they’re going to improve. The whole point of the fund was to get an incentive for people to invest in their properties, an incentive to designate their properties… which protects it in perpetuity. It’s a carrot not a stick. So I don’t support anything that would limit that."
Meed Ward noted that in her 13 years on council, the fund has never been used to its maximum.
"We had to beg people to apply for it,” she said. When seeing a property falling into disrepair, she added, they'd say, ”Do you know this money is available?”
Since 2010, the heritage committee, staff and property owners have tried to incentivize residents to designate their property and to do the work to keep it up “because it’s not cheap. I see that as completely counter to put a cap on it.”
The CHF started out with contributions of $35,000 from the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture and $25,000 from the City of Burlington. This original $60,000 has increased over time as interest has accrued and additional infusions of cash have occurred, including from Community Benefits.
Following the committee’s approval of the grant, the remaining balance will be $176,696. Staff said in its report that it will be enough to accommodate the approval of subsequent applications for the foreseeable future. Since 2013, the fund has received a couple of applications with an average request of approximately $6,000.
The owner of 327 Townsend Ave. received a heritage tax rebate of $3,652 for 2022. The amount of a Heritage Property Tax Rebate for residential properties is 40 per cent of the taxes. Receiving a heritage tax rebate does not affect the owners’ eligibility for a heritage grant or loan.