According to the London Free Press, the city will soon give formal notice that it intends to designate the Locust Mount property as a heritage property. This designation, under recent amendments to the Ontario Heritage Act by the Liberal government, would allow the city to:
Heritage bylaws are simply nothing other than the appropriation by the municipal government of others' property rights without having to go to the trouble of actually acquiring the property. They are poorly rationalized by an apparent heritage "value" that can neither be measured nor well described, but that is certainly not an attribute that is held in common.
The 147-year-old home of former mayor Elijah Leonard has been unheated since a fire gutted the building in 2000, and holes in the roof and open windows allow the weather and animals inside. Prior to the city's interest in the site's heritage, Locust Mount had attracted no attention to the majority of Londoners who had not even heard of it. A google image search of "locus mount" results in precisely one picture of the building, burning to the right. How does such a decrepit and unheard of property become the focus of the city's attention to the exercise of its authority? Because it can…
Unlike force advocates like Couns. Joni Baechler and Judy Bryant, Caranci at least has it almost right, except that he omits to consider that the developer's return on investment or the condition of the building shouldn't be of concern to the city at all. Property taxes have, however, made it inevitable that investments are the city's concern as their revenue depends on the rate applied to the assessed values of properties — this piggy-backing of state interest on individual interests has led to many other violations or manipulations of property rights, no less egregious or arbitrary than heritage bylaws. Whether heritage bylaws are any worse than eminent domain abuses, or whether or not council avails itself of its power to force Drewlo Holdings into maintaining Locust Mount, are less worrisome questions than the fact that the city has such control over private property and private interests in the first place. Zoning bylaws, smoking bylaws, pesticide bylaws and numerous other arbitrary powers have turned local governments into "battlegrounds where ideology and politics are the only basis for decision-making" [Terence Corcoran].
"If the developer can't make a return on investment with it, we shouldn't be forcing him to preserve it," [Coun. Roger] Caranci said. "I say let those who want it preserved step forward and pay for it. I love the building, but it's just too far gone."