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Heritage Designation FAQ

What does heritage designation mean?

Designation under section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act, gives a property special legal status. Designation applies to real property, and helps to protect and recognize the heritage features of that property. A designation is registered on title for the subject property, but the owner still retains control of the property.

What does "listing" mean?

Listing is an important tool used in the conservation of non-designated heritage properties. Enshrined under the Ontario Heritage Act, listing allows for the protection of a culturally significant building or structure from unnecessary demolition. If a property is listed and the owner wishes to demolish or alter the structure, they must give 60 days' notice to council, who will make a decision on whether or not to issue a permit.

What properties qualify for heritage designation?

Properties of cultural heritage value or interest are eligible for heritage designation. The designation criteria under the Ontario Heritage Act prescribe features that a property must have to merit designation status. A property considered for designation or listing must fulfill one or a combination of the following criteria: design or physical value, historical or associative value, and contextual value.

How does a property become designated?

If a property is considered for heritage designation, research will be conducted to determine the significance of the property in question. This research will be compiled into a statement of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest, which describes why the property is being designated. When Council passes a by-law to designate a historical site, this statement will be included in the by-law. The reasons for designation that are outlined in the statement of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest will become important when determining what alterations to the site may be permitted at a later date.

Who initiates designation?

The designation process can be initiated by the property owner or by the Essex Municipal Heritage Committee. A property owner may seek to designate their property to ensure that the next owners will continue to maintain its value. The Essex Municipal Heritage Committee may recommend a designation to council as a way to preserve the community's heritage resources for future generations to interact with and enjoy.

Does designation restrict changes to a property?

Designation does not restrict the property owner from making alterations or repairs to their property; however approval from council will be needed if the proposed alterations or repairs affect the designated features of the property.

Does designation affect the sale of a property?

Designation does not prohibit or detrimentally affect the sale of a property. Some studies have shown that designation actually has a positive impact on the re-sale of a property.

Can a designated property be demolished?

The alteration process under section 33 of the Ontario Heritage Act helps ensure that the heritage features of a designated property remain intact. If the owner of a designated property wishes to alter or demolish the heritage features of the property, they will need to obtain written consent from council.

What are the legal implications of designation?

Ownership of the property does not change once it is designated, nor does designation permit the public or Town staff access a designated property without permission from the owner. Designation does not obligate the property owner to do any additional maintenance outside of ordinary property standards by-laws.

Is there a listed resource of designated properties?

The Essex Municipal Heritage Register is a list of the properties that are designated or listed in the Town of Essex. The heritage register can be found on the Town of Essex Heritage Tour webpage.