Community makes up heritage values

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Kings County Register

Heritage is a living part of a community, and it can be what that community wants it to be, says the province’s co-ordinator of heritage property programming.

Kevin Barrett made a presentation to Berwick town council June 9, after a winter invitation by Councillor Anthony Morse, who was concerned about the past few years of change through the downtown core. Berwick is one of five of the province’s 55 municipalities that does not have heritage bylaws. “People believe once a property is designated a heritage property, it becomes a museum – no,” Barrett said. “People can still live in them, make additions and the building can respond to today’s needs.”

Entire community neighbourhoods and streetscapes, cemeteries or infrastructure are also eligible for heritage designation, such as the Shubenacadie canal, old Lunenburg and the Halifax harbour waterfront. “Age of a property is just one factor, or personages associated with a property – someone significant to Nova Scotia; or architecture. It’s really up to a community to decide and evaluate its history, and have its own set of unique guidelines.”

Barrett assists municipal units with heritage programs, and also oversees provincial designations. Property owners municipal units without heritage bylaws can go to the province for its designation.

Barrett said, while property owners themselves have to be the ones seeking heritage designation, a municipal unit can be ready with its bylaws, criteria for evaluation and a committee to look after applications.

And, heritage designation doesn’t mean building upgrades can’t happen: bylaws cover exterior renovations, only to ensure facades maintain a heritage appearance. If vinyl windows need to replace wooden windows, that’s okay if looks are maintained, Barrett said.

He also reviewed some of the programs and financial incentives available to heritage property owners: a conservation work grant for up to $2,000 every two years, a conservation advice grant up to $1,000 to determine the scope of improvements and the best way to tackle them, a materials and labour grant to relieve up to $500 in tax every year and a sales tax rebate – a full refund on the provincial tax on materials.

There are 1,500 municipally-designated heritage properties in Nova Scotia; the province has designated another 272. There are six municipal heritage conservation districts .

Barrett said heritage programs are green – demolition waste off to a landfill and the purchase of new materials are expensive and less environmentally-friendly ways to develop, they promote a sense of community, fostering respect for space and heritage values; and they support the economy through a need for diverse trades skills and tourism. “But I would tell you to step back and reflect on this – heritage bylaws don’t work for every community. I would encourage you to talk to other towns and communities that have experienced the positives – and the negatives. You can’t try and force it, or it doesn’t work. People need to see the values.”

Organizations: Berwick town council

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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