Long awaited amendments made to the Ontario Heritage Act

The McGuinty government has passed comprehensive amendments to the Ontario Heritage Act to strengthen and improve heritage protection in Ontario.

In Ontario communities, heritage is reflected in landmark buildings, small town main streets, historic neighbourhoods, scenic landscapes, archaeological sites, special cultural places including places of worship, cemeteries and Aboriginal sites, and such unique structures as lighthouses,mills and barns. These heritage resources are irreplaceable.

In reviewing Ontario’s heritage protection laws, the government met with a wide variety of heritage stakeholders including heritage groups, municipalities, First Nations, heritage property owners, faith groups and the development and real estate industries. The government will continue the dialogue with its stakeholders to build upon this new beginning for Ontario’s heritage.

To ensure the preservation of Ontario’s heritage for present and future generations, the McGuinty government has amended the heritage act with major changes in eight key areas:

New municipal powers to prevent demolition of heritage sites
*enable municipalities to prevent demolition of heritage sites
*provide property owners who have been refused consent to demolish a designated heritage property with a right of appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.

New provincial powers to identify, designate and prevent demolition of heritage sites
*enable the Minister of Culture to designate and prohibit demolition of heritage property of provincial significance, in consultation with the Ontario Heritage Trust.

Clear standards and guidelines for provincially owned heritage property
*enable the Ministry of Culture, in consultation with ministries and agencies affected, to develop mandatory standards and guidelines for identifying and protecting heritage property owned or controlled by the Province

Improvements to the municipal designation process
*standardize designation criteria
*enable municipalities to recognize and list non-designated heritage sites
*allow municipal councils to delegate approvals for alterations to designated heritage properties, set minimum maintenance standards for designated sites and easily update designation bylaws
*shorten newspaper notice requirements for designations
*require public notice of all de-designations.

Strengthened protection for heritage conservation districts
*require that districts have a plan and guidelines
*extend district controls to cover heritage property features as well as buildings; allow minor alterations to be exempted from approvals; enable interim controls for up to a year for districts being considered for designation
*require district designation bylaws be registered on title

Increased provincial protection for significant marine heritage sites
*enable the Province to protect the most significant marine heritage sites by prescribing these sites in regulation and prohibiting access without a site-specific licence

Enhanced provisions to conserve archaeological resources
*enhance provincial powers to ensure conservation of archaeological resources by increasing fines to a maximum of $1 million for illegal alteration of sites
*enable the Province to inspect archaeological fieldwork and sites and provide public access to certain archaeology information collected under the proposed legislation

Streamlined provisions for provincial heritage agencies
*change the name of the Ontario Heritage Foundation to “Ontario Heritage Trust,” and update reference to the agency’s natural heritage role to better reflect its current mandate
*increase Conservation Review Board administrative powers in line with amendments to the Statutory Powers Procedure Act and require that the board be composed of at least five members

For more information, please visit www.culture.gov.on.ca