Saturday, May 28, 2005

Taking "pink" back from the pinkos

When property rights are not protected, the consequences are corrupt laws that benefit one group of influential property holders at the expense of other groups, or those who do not hold property at all. Environmental and heritage fashions give government the excuse to reward themselves and the established urban property owners who voted for them and stand to benefit greatly in terms of property value as a result of the various restrictions upon development in and outside of cities.
— Garth Turner, "Think you own your own home? Think again"
A comment was received on a post I put up several months ago about the Ontario Liberals strengthening the Ontario Heritage Act to give municipalities the legal power to prevent demolition of heritage properties. Burlington residents are fighting back against the unrecompensed yet "legal" appropriation of private interests in property and substituting vague and arbitrary political heritage interests.

“Pink” warning signs are changing the look of downtown neighbourhoods as Burlington homeowners defend themselves against a corporate takeover bid. No, it’s not the multinationals that are after their homes, but Burlington City Council. They’re threatening a hostile takeover of private homes by using the Ontario Heritage Act to create a heritage theme park in the downtown to attract a few tourist dollars.

Many cities are faced with the problem of revitalizing their older downtowns, and the very prosperous Corporation of the City of Burlington, under the leadership of a pro business Mayor and some City Councilors has launched another corporate vision to provide life support to downtown businesses. Caught in a legal scheme that will cost them their property rights, sovereignty over their homes, and subject them to needless regulatory hardships, heritage homeowners are marshaling their forces to fight the takeover. No white flags over their doors, these urban rebels have gone pink. Normally the colour of gentle submission, pink has become the colour of strong opposition to a legally-binding heritage district in Burlington.

Positioning itself against a rising pink tide of homeowner opposition, Burlington City Council has voted preemptively to take legal action against homeowners’ property rights, without homeowner’s consent. Once a bylaw is passed, the corporate City Council and its subgroups will take architectural control of privately owned homes, and conscript the owners into supporting the downtown business community.

City Planners boast that private homes can be transformed into city assets at will, while homeowners say “NO” in pink. Hostile designation against the property owner’s wishes is a very unfriendly, legal act usually reserved for high-value heritage buildings. Burlington’s inventory of heritage buildings is so modest that it does not warrant wholesale designation of great expanses of the downtown, and so this action is clearly seen as a political and not a heritage issue. To emphasize the political nature of the takeover, the downtown business district which will benefit from the tourist trade is being excluded from regulatory control, and protected from the legal action.

Unfortunately, hostile legal actions usually result in equal and opposite reactions, and this corporate City venture is creating the unwanted effect of a hostile environment in the downtown which is not conducive to friendly commerce.

What to do? Homeowners have suggested that voluntary heritage neighbourhoods would work as well, and not carry the regulatory hardships or legal sting of the Ontario Heritage Act. Unless City Councilors are willing to be innovative a pink "meltdown in the downtown" is inevitable.

Steve Staniek (Mac Meltdown)
508 Hager Avenue
Burlington, ON. L7S 1P3

1 Comment:

basil said...

Historic sites in Burlington? Wow, call me ignorant. I didn't know strip mall suburbia could be designated historic yet.