Cumberland Museum and Archives opened in 1981 to help protect the city’s history. The Village is looking at additional ways to help preserve its past. Record file photo

Cumberland looks to add ‘tools’ to protect heritage

Council moves ahead to increase ways to protect Village’s history

The Village of Cumberland is taking steps to protect its well-known heritage features by adapting several ‘tools’ aimed at preservation.

Council, through its committee of the whole (COW), supported a motion to direct staff to look at how implement the tools. At the COW meeting on April 27, senior planner Karin Albert provided council with an overview of the measures to help protect the historical character of the community.

“There’s quite a few tools at local government’s disposal to protect heritage,” she said.

These include steps the community is taking such as its heritage registry, which creates an inventory of places with historical impact. The registry also plays an education role and assists with planning in the Village.

Another means that can have similar effects are heritage inspections through which, for example, a heritage committee can look into a building to determine historical significance before any alterations or demolitions take place.

Other measures include bylaws to protect values through the planning process or agreements regarding sites, though in this case they typically involve some kind of incentive for the property owner to maintain aspects of historical importance. Similarly, covenants can provide some security on property titles, though they are voluntary and do not rely on incentives.

Another measure, Albert said, was through a heritage conservation area, which usually relies on design guidelines around form and character.

“It helps to have good design principles,” she said.

The strongest tool, she added, was a heritage development bylaw, which has been used for cemetery space, the post office and the Cumberland Memorial Arch.

Albert’s report included other measures such impact assessments, temporary protection orders, grants to non-profits or tax exemptions. All of the tools, she said, have been identified in the Village official community plan and heritage management plan.

The report also refers to seven next steps the Village can take: adding to the Community Heritage Register, creating a brochure about tools to protect heritage, contacting owners to encourage further protection, reviewing the addition of heritage conservation areas, reviewing design guidelines for the existing permit process, providing training for the heritage committee to review designs and recruiting heritage professionals to the committee.

RELATED STORY: Cumberland wants more heritage committee members

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All of council supported the idea to take these next steps, as they unanimously passed the motion.

“We need to make heritage a priority, and we need to start identifying what that looks like,” said Coun. Vickey Brown.

She referred to a past case in which owners rebuilt following a fire in the downtown core but did so in a way to suit the surrounding historical character. However, Brown said the Village at that time was limited in what it could ask property owners to do.

Mayor Leslie Baird hinted that this will continue to pose a challenge as the community grows and developers apply to erect new structures, sometimes at the cost of existing ones such as older homes.

“They’ll just want to tear them down and build new,” she added.

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