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Ormstown homeowner is frustrated over renovation delays

“I want to do this house justice. It is worthy of it,” says realtor Charles Robert, who purchased a charming but badly neglected 1910/20s-era clapboard house in Ormstown over a year ago. He bought the heritage property on Lambton Street with plans in mind to renovate the building with a clear vision of his future home. He says his dream has become a nightmare, after successive dealings with the municipality have put his project on hold.

“I want to do it right. I don’t want to be in conflict with the town,” says Robert, who reached out to the municipality before he took ownership of the property early last April. He met with municipal inspector Luc Pilon soon after and started the application process for a permit.

The location of the property on Ormstown’s historic Lambton Street means that renovations to the building are subject to the municipality’s Plan d’implantation et d’intégration architecturale, or site planning and architectural integration program (PIIA). The permit process for properties in this sector includes a qualitative assessment for certain types of work according to specific criteria that are evaluated by the municipality’s Comité consultatif d’urbanisme (CCU).

Robert had already completed restoration projects under a PIIA in Beauharnois and more recently in Huntingdon. “I learned a lot. It wasn’t my first time on the merry-go-round,” he says, suggesting he understood his plans for the Ormstown house would have to respect its architectural integrity. “I support the PIIA program and procedures 150 per cent,” he maintains, adding it is the wait period and the municipality’s interpretation of the PIIA and other bylaws that have complicated his plans.

For example, Robert says that soon after bringing in a load of topsoil from a local excavator to level the grounds, the municipality requested he test the soil for contamination. Robert objected, and eventually, after some discussion, the town retracted this requirement; but it left a sour taste in his mouth.

The original permit application for his renovations eventually resulted in the awarding of a permit last fall, but Robert has since decided to paint the exterior of the house. He says he applied for a new permit this past April and was told a resolution would be presented at the May 6 council meeting based on the recommendation of the CCU.

When his request was not presented at the meeting, he sought a response from the municipality. On May 23, he received a letter informing him that his permit application had been deferred due to missing information.

Ormstown’s mayor, Christine McAleer, confirms that the permit request has not been refused. “Mr. Robert has to supply the necessary documents for the CCU to send a recommendation to council,” she explains, while pointing out that more information is necessary concerning his chosen colour scheme.

To conform with the requirements of the PIIA, the municipality is requesting a mock-up of the house showing the final colours as well as its integration with its immediate surroundings. Robert must also submit a colour scheme for the home that is compatible with its architecture and date of construction, one that considers the styles of the area at that time.

 

Charles Robert had hoped to renovate his recently purchased clapboard house on Lambton Street in Ormstown He says his dealings with the municipality have left him questioning whether to continue with his plans PHOTO Yvonne Lewis Langlois

 

The letter from the municipality notes that the “majority of clapboard houses in the area were predominantly white or were light in nature, hence complimentary.”

“We are trying to keep the historical value of the area,” says McAleer, referring to the PIIA and its requirements. “He has to try to find colours that will go with the feeling of the area,” she explains.

“At this point, I am not ready to do this,” says Robert. “Even if they give me the permit for the painting, what will be next? There is always going to be some roadblock,” he sighs.

“There has to be some flexibility,” he adds, suggesting the interpretation of the bylaw should take local context into consideration and the financial capacity of citizens to comply with the regulations.

“My intent is to respect the architectural integrity. My chosen colour palette might not be what is appealing to everyone, but they are heritage colours,” Robert insists, before admitting he is losing hope over his ability to work with the municipality.

“At the point I am at now, my heart is gone,” he says of his renovation plans. “I don’t see myself here anymore.”

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