Filing error de-registers Brunswick Street Heritage House
In 1998, Halifax officials forgot to send themselves a letter
December 7, 2016, 5:58 pm ASTLast Updated: December 7, 2016, 6:30 pm
After an hour-long debate by council on Tuesday, a proposal to register a Brunswick Street address as a heritage property was struck down in a 7-10 vote.
Halifax Regional Municipality planning and development brought forward the proposal, but it didn’t have the support of the homeowners.
The property at 2275 Brunswick St. is owned by Ezra Anreas Edelstein and Joanne Marie McRae, but it used to be owned by the HRM. In 1997 the first heritage designation application was made and it was approved on Jan. 2, 1998. Since then, the house has been listed on heritage websites and even has a plaque dubbing it so.
However, the Huestis house — named after Rev. Dr. Stephen F. Huestis, who built the home in 1887 — was a heritage house only in name. On paper, it never became official.
“Legal staff noted an error in the 1997 registration,” said Stephanie Salloum, the HRM planner assigned to this case. “The notice to register was sent to the wrong property owner at that time.”
The problem, council learned, was the paper trail. In most cases, the owner of a historical property would be sent a letter to notify them of the change in their home’s status. Halifax didn’t send themselves the letter in 1998 and, therefore the home wasn’t officially registered.
“The registry doesn’t allow retroactive registration, so it was brought forward as a new one,” Salloum told council.
The heritage advisory committee recommended that council approve the application for the Brunswick Street home.
“(The house) has significant value,” said Salloum. “This property contributes to the heritage value of the Brunswick Street area.”
During the presentation to council, several questions were asked to clarify the situation.
“I am very confused,” said District 8 Coun. Lindell Smith, just minutes before the vote.
Since 1997, the property has changed hands a few times. In 2006, the HRM sold the home to the City of Halifax Non-Profit Housing Society for $1. This past June, the property was again sold, this time to Edelstein and McRae, who attended the meeting on Tuesday. They want to add on to the back of the home, something that may not be permitted if the home became a heritage property.
“We applied for a building permit prior to receiving notice and intended to put a modest addition onto the back of this building,” said Edelstein to council. “Our intention has always been to preserve the façade of this building.”
He also said the building is in a state of significant disrepair and they want to fix that.
Heritage properties in Halifax are not allowed to have any “significant” changes done to them, according to the HRM’s website.
“It usually applies to significant changes to the exterior appearance of the property such as modifications to window/door openings or changes to the form or volume of the building,” the website states.
Edelstein and McRae, however, brought a development agreement to the council’s attention. This agreement, from 1980, would overrule the Heritage Act.
“No one seems to have been aware of that (agreement),” said Edelstein. “It isn’t recognized in any of the reports by the heritage advisory committee.”
The development agreement covers the area of Brunswick between Cornwallis and Gerrish streets, where the house is located. It permits an existing home to add bathrooms, kitchens and external staircases, which is exactly what the homeowners were planning.
If the heritage application had been approved at council, the homeowners would need to file an application to make changes to their home, which could delay the repairs or have them rejected completely.