UPDATE: THE GM FOR THE PLANNING DEPARTMENT, JASON THORNE ISSUED THE FOLLOWING RELEASE AT 4PM: “A short time ago, staff received a request from the applicant that, in light of the requests this morning for further information, they would like to withdraw their demolition permit application that they submitted this morning. The demolition permit has now been cancelled by the Chief Building Official. Therefore there is no longer an active demolition permit application on the property.”
THE STORY I FILED THIS MORNING BEFORE THE TURN OF EVENTS FOLLOWS BELOW-
The City of Hamilton Planning Committee is rushing to save St. Giles Church from demolition with a last minute motion to designate the church as a heritage site.
“I’m feeling tricked,” Councillor Lloyd Ferguson said when he and other councillors learned hours into a planning meeting that the church applied for a demolition permit this morning.
This information was revealed after a long list of delegates spoke in favour of saving St. Giles.
New Vision Church and the United Church of Canada development arm, want to demolish the grand St. Giles Church at Main and Holton to build affordable housing. St. Giles and the former Centenary United Church at Main and MacNab merged several years ago. It appears that St. Giles is being sacrificed to finance the future of Centenary, now called New Vision.
Councillor Judy Partridge said she felt “blindsided” by the news of the last minute demolition permit application.
Councillor Jason Farr questioned why, when both the United Church development arm and Rev. Ian Sloan of New Vision Church spoke to the planning committee this morning, they did not reveal their last minute demolition application.
“I did not hear it mentioned,” Farr said.
A scramble to protect demo St. Giles
The surprise news sent councillors scrambling for ways to stave off demolition. Many agreed with heritage proponents, and residents living near the impressive church, that convincing the proponents to reuse the church as part of the affordable housing project would be a win for all.
“It’s a shame we don’t have more time,” Farr said. “There is a white knight out there.”
A motion to designate the church was quickly cobbled together by Councillor Partridge and was approved by a vote of 7-1. But the story doesn’t end there. It has to be approved at the next meeting of council. It gives St. Giles a seven day reprieve.
During that time, Ward 3 Councillor Nrinder Nann, in who’s ward St. Giles sits, will speak with Rev. Sloan about possible compromises. However Nann clearly stated she favoured demolition over preservation if it is the only way to get affordable housing built.
Observing today’s meeting one could deduce that the last minute demolition application has burned bridges, with heritage advocates, residents and some councillors.
“Now we’re being tricked into making an impulsive decision whether we designate or accept the recommendation which has no power because the demolition permit came in this morning,” Councillor Ferguson said in frustration.
Sarah Sheehan was one of many to speak to the planning committee today, and is active with the Save St. Giles group.
“I can’t speak for their motives, but applying for a demolition permit the morning of the Planning Committee meeting doesn’t come across as acting in good faith. It felt like a real, deliberate blow to the community and all the work the Friends of St. Giles have been doing in the past few months. What’s the rush? Once St. Giles is gone, it’s gone forever. It is irreplaceable, and that’s a huge responsibility.”